Photo credit: Mika Baumeister

View Part I here.

There are many frameworks that relate metrics to organizational goals. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are the framework that I like best, because this framework is simple and yet comprehensive. OKRs came from former Intel CEO, Andy Grove’s approach, which he detailed in High Output Management.  Google also uses OKRs, and thus this framework is very popular in the tech start-up community.  The most recent go-to guide that came out on this framework, Measure What Matters by John Doerr, is one that I highly recommend any nonprofit looking to use this framework read.

Objectives are broad goals that can be defined per person or per group.  They tend to have these characteristics:

  • They are time-bound.
  • They are more qualitative and ambitious than key results.
  • On a quarterly basis you score your performance from 1-10 (based on the question “How well did we do on this?”).  A 1 rating represents the objective was not accomplished at all, and a 10 represents that the objective was fully accomplished. This leaves room for some grey area between “done” and “not done,” which is important for any big goal. 
  • The objectives should be ambitious enough that you’re not getting to a 10 for every objective. They should be a stretch that forces you to become better.  Many companies suggest that the average OKR rating is between 7 and 8.

Key Results are 3-5 measurable indicators or measurements to let you know that you’ve achieved your objectives.  They tend to have these characteristics:

  • They are quantitative and clear-cut – it’s clear whether you’ve achieved the key result. In other words, these are your metrics of success related to your goals.
  • They contribute to the quarterly scoring, but are often reviewed more often (even weekly). 

Relationship between Objectives & Key Results

Any team or individual may have 3-5 objectives at a time. Within each objective, there may be 3, 4 or 5 key results.  At least some of every person or team’s OKRs should align with the OKRs a step above them on the organization chart.  

Overall, I like that OKRs are conceptually simple and widely-used across sectors.  I also appreciate that they are frequently reviewed and are meant to be visible. OKRs should be public, and you should communicate your OKRs with those you work closely with and vice-versa.  This helps individuals and/or teams see the intersections in priorities.  

There are some challenges with OKRs in relation to the nonprofit sector.  Specifically, some goals may not (and should not) change dramatically quarter-to-quarter, especially if they relate to mission achievement.  We know that social change takes time, and there are challenges with measuring some of the important long-term changes we’re trying to make happen (see my prior post about the time frame trap).  Your organization may want to frame your OKRs around shorter-term outcome indicators that are more closely tied to the actions your team is taking today than longer-term outcome indicators that may take years to manifest. 

Want to learn more about OKRs? If you don’t have the time to read Measure What Matters,  you can find one of my go-to resources on this topic here.

This post by Paul originally appeared on the website.