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.

Don'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

Ideally, you should have measurable Key Results that you can grade every week by answering these 5 questions:

  • 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.

Progress

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.

Trends

Consider the 2 charts below.

Progress trends in OKRs

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.

Confidence

A simple green/yellow/red status associated to your Key Results will give a clearer picture of the state of your OKRs.

OKR Confidence Levels
  • 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.

How to simplify OKRs check-ins

You can automate a lot of your OKRs with the right OKRs-tracking platform. Check out the video below to see how you can create a check-in in under 30s with Tability.

  • Add the current value of your metric—Tability will do the maths for you.
  • See past data and trends automatically.
  • Select your confidence in 1-click.
  • Add your analysis in a comment.

You can also use a spreadsheet to achieve similar results, but you'll have to manage your own formulas and set up the formatting and workflows for all your teams. Best is to get friction out of the way so your team can spend more time on achieving their goals, and waste fewer hours generating graphs in Google Sheet.

Don't forget to have 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.

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Hey there 👋 if you enjoyed this post you might also like Tability. It simplifies the OKRs process and helps teams maintain their focus at scale.

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