This post will include some sports analogies, so forgive me if it doesn't fully resonate. (but if you like basketball, it should!)
I'm seeing a dangerous trend of glorifying the KR part of OKRs. I'm part of the problem, as I often talk about having measurable goals, but I need to clarify something: good goal-tracking is far more about making informed decisions than tracking metrics.
The KR part of OKRs is here to give you an anchor to come back to with your team. It's about making it easier to evaluate progress on the Objective. BUT, KRs by themselves will rarely give a perfect description of the parent Objective.
This is a bit abstract so let me give you a concrete example. Say that your Objective is "Our customers love our product". A typical KR for that will be NPS. But is NPS really giving you an honest perspective? It depends on how you send the surveys... It also doesn't measure "love" as it's about recommendation. Perhaps you could look at social media mentions? Or gauge sentiment in customer interviews? Or meet people at conferences? Or look at CSAT from the support team?
The bottom line is: you can most likely have a feel for whether or not people like your product, but there's not a single KR that can capture that emotion. And that's precisely why you need to keep the spirit of your Objectives in mind! Your NPS might not be going up, but it should not prevent you from building a better relationship with your users.
Don't get so obsessed about Key Results that you forget about your Objectives.
Wait, how does that relate to basketball?
Right, so I promised a basketball analogy and got a bit lost here. So here we go. In recent years, people have introduced new metrics called advanced statistics to compare NBA players. It's things like offensive and defensive ratings, effective field goal percentage, real plus minus (RPM), etc. These metrics range from simple normalization of data to complex mixes of metrics.
Think of them as your KRs.
Now, the problem with advanced stats is that just like the KRs, they won't give you a complete picture of the player you're talking about. Sure you could look at the table below and set yourself the goals of reaching Steph Curry's RPM.
Or, you could watch this clip and realize that there's a lot that metrics can't capture (and that there's no way anyone can shoot like Steph).
Advanced stats help us having richer discussions, but only if we're already watching the game. Key Results help us make informed decisions, but only if we're already familiar with the Objectives.
I'm a co-founder of a goal-tracking app, so it might sound strange for me to write this post. But, a huge part of what makes Tability a great product is that it's designed for conversations—not reporting.
Make sure that you're metrics-informed but not metrics-obsessed.