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Stop doing pointless tasks, start making decisions with purpose
OKRs without regular check-ins are just KPIs. See best practices for keeping track of progress on your Key Results.
What is OKR scoring?
So, you've set some goals for the quarter using the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework. But now what?
OKRs have two main functions:
- Aligning teams by setting clear goals with a unified language before the quarter.
- Maintain the right sense of urgency by tracking progress on goals during the quarter.
Scoring your OKRs will help you with the latter. It is an exercise that will help you assess progress during the quarter, making it easier to surface outcomes that are at risk.
Historically OKRs scoring was a monthly activity that focused on the Objectives. But, as teams have started to work in shorter cycles, it's becoming important for orgs to be able to update progress on their OKRs every week – with a strong focus on the Key Results.
Weekly reviews of the KRs will help you adjust efforts accordingly before it's too late.
Weekly OKR scoring vs. monthly OKR scoring
There's a slight difference in focus between the weekly progress reports and the monthly OKR scorecards. Both are necessary but they serve a different purpose.
Weekly OKR scoring:
- Designed to help teams adjust their efforts week-by-week
- Focuses on the Key Results
- Should be based on measurable outcomes
- Detailed assessment of progress for each KR
Monthly OKR scoring:
- Designed to help leaders understand progress across the company
- Focuses on the Objectives
- Aggregated scoring of the Key Results
- High-level assessment of progress for each Objective
Grading scale: why you shouldn't score your OKRs like Google
Google made OKRs famous, but their approach to OKRs scoring has confused a lot of teams.
Google's grading recommendation is to aim for a 60%-70% completion at the end of the quarter. Achieving 70% of the OKRs is considered awesome, and achieving 100% should be extremely rare—worse, it should be frowned upon as it means that the team wasn't ambitious enough.
This grading appeals to managers who want to push their team, but it often ends up confusing the team.
Salespeople, marketers, engineers have been taught that 100% = done, and most KPIs in orgs are celebrated at the 80%-90% mark. So, introducing a different scale for OKRs will result in difficulties to judge progress.
Is 35% mid-quarter good (it's halfway to 70%), or should we be worried?
Our recommendation is to keep things simple:
- Yes, you can still ask your team to have stretch goals.
- But keep aiming for 80%-90% completion rather than 60%-70%.
Talk to your team and see what feels good to them, perhaps the Google scoring model will make sense, but don't hesitate to adopt your own rules if that's not the case.
How to grade OKRs
- Progress: how far are we from achieving our goal? (this is what we've looked at so far)
- Trends: are we getting better or worse?
- Confidence: is this where we're supposed to be?
- Root cause: how did we get there?
- Plan: do we need to change our roadmap?
It may seem like a lot, but in practice you only need 3 things to answer all questions:
- A progress chart
- A confidence level
- A bit of text!
Let's dive into the components of a good check-in first, and then we'll look at what a check-in can look like with an OKRs-tracking platform.
Calculating progress is easy when you have measurable Key Results. Using the formula below, you can calculate the percentage of progression relative to the initial value of your metric:
Progress % = (<current value> - <starting value>) / (<target value> - <starting value>) * 100
For example, say that one of your KR is to increase NPS from 10 to 40. A score of 22 would mean that you're at 40% of your goal.
(22- 10) / (40 - 10) * 100 = 40%
But having a progression percentage by itself is not enough as you also need to consider how much time you have left. Being at 40% one week into the quarter is great. Being at 40% one week before the end of the quarter is unlikely to be celebrated.
Consider the 2 charts below.
They both end up at the same point, but the trends are telling us 2 different stories. The team on the left has cause for concern. The team on the right will feel much more confident about the rest of the quarter.
Trends do a great job of keeping you honest by putting your current progress in perspective of your past performance. It's often the best signal for managers as it helps them quickly identify which OKRs are in trouble.
A simple green/yellow/red status associated to your Key Results will give a clearer picture of the state of your OKRs.
- Green: on track
- Yellow: at risk
- Red: off-track
At the end of the quarter, you'll be able to apply a simple scale to know which color to pick:
- 0-60% completion: red
- 60-80% completion: yellow
- 80-100% completion: green
But during the quarter, this will be a more subjective exercise as you'll need to consider the trends before deciding on your status.
Analysis: root cause + plan
So far, all the things listed above could be automated. But you would then lose the value of the OKRs process as it's the repetition of check-ins that helps people keep in mind the top priorities. And not only do you want them to remember what the OKRs are, but you also want them to be critical about their progress.
Each check-in should have a simple analysis section that helps the reader understand how the team got to where they are and if changes need to happen to move forward.
Don't forget to have monthly health checks on your Objectives.
Tracking your Key Results will greatly increase the focus of the teams. But it's a good practice to step back to grade the Objectives at least once a month.
The main reason is that your KRs can't always capture the spirit of the Objectives. Metrics like NPS or CSAT can only be a proxy for customer happiness. So it may be a good thing from time to time to go around the team and ask a simple question: "Do you think we're red, yellow, or green for <Objective>?"
This will elevate the discussion and bring the conversation back to your primary focus. And sometimes, it will result in changing your Key Results if you realize that they don't map well enough to your Objectives.