Skip to main content

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are widely adopted in Silicon Valley, because they can be extremely effective for helping individuals, teams, and organizations to set and achieve their most important goals. Yet, many struggle to implement OKRs in real life. In Radical Focus, Christina Wodtke presents an OKRs framework to help you and your team to achieve your most crucial goals using OKRs. In this Radical Focus summary, you’ll get an overview how to apply OKRs in 3 parts:
(i) Define goals that are both aspirational and quantifiable;
(ii) Ensure consistent progress towards these goals; and
(iii) Establish a rhythm of regular review and accountability, to stay focused on the objectives.

Radical Focus Book Synopsis

In the book, Wodtke uses a business fable to illustrate the concept and benefits of OKRs, before sharing how to implement OKRs in an organization.  The story is about 2 startup co-founders, Hanna and Jack, who dreamed of bringing great tea to cafes and restaurants. However, they struggled to make it a reality.

Hanna and Jack faced various challenges, and struggled with multiple work priorities—trying to concurrently acquire customers, build their brand, and manage their cashflows. Finally, they received an ultimatum from their investor—to deliver real results, or get fired.

Hanna and Jack learned to use OKRs to get the right things done. Along the way, they learned how to:

  • Define and direct their team’s efforts toward one main objective at a time;
  • Measure and track their progress; and
  • Stay motivated despite setbacks and failures.

The OKR Framework

OKRs can deliver results in any organization—from small startups to large organizations. However, you must truly understand the approach and have the discipline to apply it consistently.

What is OKR?

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are about breaking down your goals into a qualitative objective (O) supported by quantitative key results (KRs), then regularly measuring and tracking your progress.

OKR DEFINITIONS

Objectives are qualitative, inspirational, and time-bound goals. They’re set for a specific period of time, usually a quarter, and should be inspiring enough to excite people. Examples include:
(i) Dominate corporate coffee supply in Silicon Valley.
(ii) Launch a kick-ass MVP.

Key Results (KRs), on the other hand, are quantitative metrics that reflect the desired end outcomes. They tell you if the Objective has been achieved for the specified time window.
(i) They should be stretch targets, i.e., they’re hard but not impossible. Wodtke recommends choosing a target with a confidence score of 5 out of 10, i.e., you believe you only have a 50% chance of achieving the goal.
(ii) Good KRs should strongly reflect progress toward the Objective and motivate individual growth.

In our full 13-page Radical Focus summary we further break down the steps and elements of how to set and track your OKRs.

Here’s a visual overview of the components addressed in the book and our full summary bundle:

Radical Focus summary - Overview of OKR Framework

Prerequisites for OKRs

Before you can craft effective OKRs, you need to several ingredients:

• A clear, concise, and meaningful mission (usually for 5 years or more);
• A strategy, which typically has a longer timeframe than an objective (>1 year) but a shorter timeframe than a mission;
• Metrics-thinking, with an initial baseline for comparing key results; and
• A safe, supportive environment where people can openly discuss areas for professional and personal improvements.

Download our full summary bundle–including text, infographic and audio summaries–for more tips on getting these pre-requisites in place, with examples of what a meaningful mission and strategy look like.

Why OKRs?

OKRs work because they address 5 reasons why essential things don’t get done.

• Lack of clear priorities. If you try to focus on everything, you end up achieving nothing. OKRs force you to narrow down to just 1 objective and 3 KRs, and to crystalize what “done” looks like.

• Lack of communication. You need to convey your goal clearly, thoroughly and repeatedly, until everyone grasps it and is actively pursuing it. Wodtke’s OKR system uses weekly meetings, celebrations, and updates, to keep the goal top-of-mind and tied to daily activities.

• Lack of a concrete plan. Often, we don’t have a strategy or a plan to get things done. We rely on willpower, which fails when we’re tired or demoralized. Wodtke’s system incorporates peer accountability, celebration, and check-ins, to help us stay ontrack even when we don’t feel like it.

• Lack of time. Often, we don’t make time for vital tasks. President Eisenhower said that we tend to get distracted by things in the bottom-left of the Eisenhower Matrix, i.e. stuff that are urgent but unimportant. OKRs help us to dedicate time for the top-right box, i.e. things that are not urgent, but important for long-term goals.

• Lack of persistence. Too often, people give up once they fail at OKRs. Wodtke warns that you’re likely to fail at your first attempt. The key to success is to keep iterating—closely track what works and what doesn’t, so you can continually refine your approach.

Implementing OKRs

Supporting Elements: Pipelines and Health Metrics

Pipelines

Unlike OKRs, which are focused on achieving specific, measurable outcomes, pipelines are a pool of potential projects and initiatives that might help the organization achieve its goals and mission. These project ideas should be sorted by impact, effort, and confidence so the team can have the flexibility to choose the most effective initiatives to support the OKRs.

Health Metrics

Health metrics are key measures that reflect overall business health, such as customer satisfaction, code health, and team health.  Pick 2-5 crucial items that best reflect business health and must be protected while the team pursues the ambitious OKRs.  You can reflect them using colors:
• Green: Everything is fine.
• Yellow: Need to watch out.
• Red: The business is negatively impacted.
Declining health metrics must be flagged to management. These might be promoted to an OKR to address the issue.

Check out our full 13-page Radical Focus summary to see how all of these elements come together in the form of steps and templates.

Establishing a Cadence or Rhythm for Your OKRs

OKRs won’t work if we set them and then forget about them until the end of the quarter. To keep the team aligned and focused on their objectives, we need to have a means to measure progress, and ensure regular review and accountability. Wodtke recommends 2 crucial meetings every week on Mondays and Fridays.

Monday Commitments

The team reviews its progress every Monday and commits to tasks that will help deliver the OKRs. It should address 4 items, which can be presented in 4 quadrants:

  • This week’s intention
  • Upcoming tasks (next 4 weeks)
  • OKR status/confidence
    Health metrics

Friday Celebrations

When you set ambitious goals, it’s normal to fail. So, it’s crucial to remind people of their achievements and keep morale high. Every Friday, the team meets to share progress, demo what they can, learn what others are doing, and celebrate wins. This meeting motivates individuals to get work done and to seek wins.

In our full summary bundle, we’ll outline the detailed tips on how to set and implement each of the components above, along with OKR examples, weekly templates, email templates, and other things to look out for. Here’s a visual snapshot of how the components come together in practice:

Radical Focus summary - How to implement OKRs

Other Practical Tips and Variants

It’s normal to fail when you’re implementing OKRs for the first time. Christina Wodtke recommends starting small and focusing on iterative learning. For example, you can:

• Implement OKRs with just 1 high-performing team: help the team to succeed over several cycles, before introducing OKRs to the rest of the company.

• Implement just 1 company-wide OKR for your leadership team, to motivate them to perform at a higher standard, while role-modeling the OKR approach for the rest of the organization.

• Apply OKRs to specific projects to cultivate an Objective-Result mindset.

In our complete 13-page Radical Focus summary, you’ll also learn:

• Steps for reviewing, setting, and cascading OKRs across teams and the entire organization.

• Dos and don’ts in implementing OKRs

Getting the Most from Radical Focus

Conceptually, the OKRs system is very simple and powerful. Yet, it’s not easy to master—because it requires a relentless focus on what’s important, constantly turning away less critical tasks, engaging with your team, addressing issues openly, and fostering a culture of accountability and adaptability.

If you’re ready to use OKRs to maximize results for yourself and your team, do check out full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, 13-page text summary, and a 23-minute audio summary.
Radical Focus summary - Book Summary Bundle

The book includes several case studies to illustrate OKRs in practice. It also explores other details, such as ideas to enhance organizational learning, score your OKRs, and select OKR software tools. You can purchase the book here or visit cwodtke.com for more details.

Looking for more insights to align team results? Do also check out our summaries for Measure What Matters (with more background on OKRs) and The 4 Disciplines of Execution (for more insights on driving execution at an organizational level).

About the Author of Radical Focus

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results was written by Christina Wodtke—an American businesswoman, author, and thought leader specializing in design thinking, information architecture and Management Science. She is currently a lecturer in HCI at Stanford University. Her past work includes re-designs and initial product offerings with LinkedIn, MySpace, Zynga, Yahoo!

Christina Wodtke founded 3 startups, an online design magazine called Boxes and Arrows, and co-founded the Information Architecture Institute. She also teaches worldwide on the intersection of human innovation and high-performing teams

Radical Focus Quotes

“We start our journey to our dreams by wanting, but we arrive by focusing, planning, and learning.”

“Impossible goals are depressing. Hard goals are inspiring.”

“Work should not be a chore list, but a collective push forward toward shared goals.”

“Don’t just make stuff. Make an impact.”

“Life always gives you plenty to do. The secret is not forgetting the things that matter.”

“You don’t need people to work more, you need people to work on the right things.”

“Ideas are easier to come up with than you think. What’s hard — really hard— is moving from an idea to reality.”

Click here to download the Radical Focus infographic & summary

Leave a Reply

0 cart

My Cart

Cart is empty