OKRs for Startups

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How to score your OKRs

How to score your OKRs

Sten Pittet - CEO
STen Pittet

OKRs without regular check-ins are just KPIs. See best practices for keeping track of progress on your Key Results.

Creating OKRs might be the hardest thing about the framework, but tracking OKRs is the most valuable part. It's important to have alignment at the start of the quarter, but you also need to help your teams excel at execution. This is only possible if progress against the Key Results is tracked early and often.

Pick the right Scoring frequency

The rules are simple:

  • Quarterly OKRs should be tracked weekly.
  • Yearly OKRs should be tracked monthly.

You need to have enough data points that you can identify trends in your Key Results. With monthly-tracked OKRs you'll often get a false sense of security until the second month. Then it's already too late if you're in the red.

On the other hand, weekly check-ins will help you anticipate issues much earlier. You'll quickly see trends and will be able to take action rapidly to correct the course.

Trends vs. isolated data

This is a follow-up to the previous point. Most spreadsheet templates use tables that will only show you the status of the latest check-in. This is dangerous because a single data point can look great in isolation...

...and offer a different story once you look at previous check-ins.

How to write good progress reports

A good check-in should answer the following questions:

  • Progress: where are we today?
  • Expectation: is this where we're supposed to be?
  • Trends: are we getting better or worse?
  • Root cause: how did we get there?
  • Plan: what can we change to improve?

You need to answer these 5 questions every week, for each one of your Key Results. This may sound like a lot, but a tool like Tability can do the heavy lifting for you.

Don't score your OKRs like Google

Google made OKRs famous, but their approach to OKRs scoring has confused a lot of teams.

With the Google rules, your teams should aim for a score of 0.6-0.7 out of 1 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 scale is appealing to managers that want to push their team, but it's confusing for most people.

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?

My 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.

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