Everything you need to set great quarterly goals

Table of contents

Q2 is over! And depending on which side of the planet you're on, it might also be the end of your financial year. In a previous post we looked at how retrospectives can get you in the right mindset to look at the future. In this post, I’d like to share a set of resources that will help you draft an effective strategy for the next 3 months.

I’ve tried to separate the resources in different sections to make this easier to digest.

Picking the right goal-setting framework

If I had to recommend just one framework, it would be OKRs. Not because it’s perfect, but because it’s simple enough to be adopted quickly by any team. With only 2 terms to master (the objectives, and the key results), it’s much simpler to explain how OKRs work compared to other goal-setting frameworks like Scaling Up or EoS.

Of course, it first needs to be the right time to introduce a goal-setting methodology. For instance, it’ll be quite hard to set goals unless there’s a strategy documented somewhere. So here’s a plan for you:

  1. Start by looking at the 4 stages of outcome-driven teams to understand if you’re ready for bottom-up OKRs, or if you should take a more straightforward top-down planning approach.
  2. Read up on the meaning of OKRs, and make sure that you’re not going to use OKR as a performance management tool
  3. If OKRs aren’t for you, you can look at 7 other goal-setting frameworks that can be a better fit.
  4. Alternatively, you can build your own goal-setting methodology with 5 simple questions.

For the sake of this post, I’ll assume that you’re using OKRs. But most of the advice and resources that you’ll find below can apply to other goal-setting approaches.

Avoiding common pitfalls

Saying no to things is hard. A recent survey by OKR International showed that having too many goals was the #1 mistake that people make. And that number doesn’t not seem to improve as we went from 49% of teams having this issue in 2022, to 56% of teams experiencing that problem in 2023.

The problem with having many competing OKRs is that it becomes harder to understand what’s truly important and where people should focus their efforts. As a result, you end up spreading yourself thin over multiple activities, and it becomes much more difficult to understand the health of your business.

Luckily, there are a few rules that you can follow (3x3 OKR matrix, don’t capture BAU…) as well as tools that can detect goal-setting issues for you.

  1. Check out our 15 rules for effective OKRs
  2. See why it’s important to bring the OKR pain forward
  3. Watch this goal-setting Masterclass to learn how to build great quarterly plans
  4. Read how to set OKRs when your KR is a project

Picking metrics, finding examples

Setting top-level company goals is often quite straightforward. You start with your core KPIs, set targets, and can quickly build a plan that captures your needs around growth, customer satisfaction, and team performance. But things can get tricky once you go one level below to set team and function goals.

  • What is Engineering trying to achieve?
  • What are the goals of Design?

Setting measurable goals is quite different from building a roadmap. One way to make that exercise easier is to look at what others did. There aren’t many companies that share their OKRs publicly (we do), but you can find templates to help.

  1. Get some inspiration by taking a look at our top-level Q2 OKRs and how we created them
  2. Check out our suggested OKR plan for startups
  3. Use the AI OKR generator to turn your ideas into measurable goals
  4. Check our list of SaaS benchmarks to help you set the right targets

Aligning teams

OKRs don’t cascade.

The idea of having goals that trickle down beautifully from the top of the org to every individual is extremely appealing. But, this is something that is impossible to achieve in practice, and most OKR experts will caution you against the idea of cascading OKRs.

But, OKRs can be aligned.

Teams should have the flexibility of building the best quarterly plan for them, while still aligning their goals with the top-level goals for the company. A tool like Tability will then make it super easy to connect OKRs together to give you the benefits of cascading OKRs without incurring any of the pain.

Some resources to help:

  1. Read our post about cascading vs. aligning OKRs
  2. Check 9 tactics for leaders to facilitate alignment
  3. Read our weekly check-in meeting guide

Saving time with the right tools

Back when I was a Product Manager, 30% of my time was spent turning spreadsheets into presentations and reports. That’s a lot of time that isn’t spent on thinking about the actual challenges we were facing. Fortunately there are tools that can take care of the menial tasks, as well as providing new insights that make it much easier and faster to answer complex questions.

Most teams now have a place to collaborate on code, a place to collaborate on designs, and a place to collaborate on projects. Having a place to collaborate on goals will provide the same kind of benefits that these other platforms offer: a massive increase in productivity, and a significant reduction in headaches.

  1. Check out 10 great OKR dashboards to save hours at work
  2. Read 10 ways to increase team engagement
  3. Have a look at 9 views that map team goals to strategic initiatives

All of these features are part of Tability.

What’s next

Hopefully these resources will help you get ready for the next 12 weeks. And if you want someone to take a second look at your goals, don’t hesitate to book some time with me in my Calendly.

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Sten Pittet

Co-founder and CEO, Tability

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