Succeeding with the OKR framework: Definition, best practices, and practical OKR examples

Shefali Lohia

If you’ve ever discussed or read about goal setting, you’ve almost certainly come across the term OKR. In fact, maybe you’ve even used the OKR framework before.

Coined by Intel's Andy Grove and later popularized by John Doerr, OKRs (short for objectives and key results) are a goal setting framework. This framework steers businesses, teams, and individuals towards achieving their goals. Its flexibility makes it a powerful tool for companies of all shapes and sizes.

If you’re looking to set outcome-driven goals for your organization that maximize resources and enhance alignment, then the OKR framework could be the right tool for you.

To use it properly, it’s imperative you get a solid understanding of the OKR framework and how best to apply it to your work. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the OKR definition and history, and illustrate OKR examples. We'll also show you how you can utilize best practices and Charma to implement impactful OKRs.

📌 Read about Charma’s goal setting software

OKR definition: Objectives and key results

OKRs are a goal setting framework that combine clear objectives with measurable key results to drive progress and achieve desired outcomes. Objectives are high-level, aspirational goals that provide direction and purpose. Key results are specific, quantifiable metrics that measure goal attainment. The relationship between objectives and key results is symbiotic; while objectives define the destination, key results serve as the roadmap to get there.

Imagine a company aiming to expand its market presence.

An objective could be: Become a market leader in the industry

To measure progress, several key results might include:

  • Increase market share by 20% within the next quarter
  • Achieve a Net Promoter Score of 9 or higher
  • Launch two new product features aligned with customer needs

This combination of a visionary objective and tangible key results provides a clear direction while enabling effective progress tracking.

OKR framework: Origins and evolution

The origins of OKRs can be traced back to Andy Grove who introduced OKRs as a way to align Intel's efforts and measure performance. It was, however, popularized by John Doerr, a former Intel executive. Doerr brought OKRs to several high-profile tech companies, including Google. John Doerr's influence and advocacy of the framework helped establish OKRs as a widely recognized goal setting methodology.

The OKR framework emphasizes setting stretch goals, which are ambitious objectives that challenge the status quo and encourage innovation. By encouraging teams to think beyond conventional limits, OKRs foster a culture of continuous improvement and breakthrough achievements. Additionally, OKRs operate at all levels, from individual contributors to entire organizations. This helps ensure alignment and clarity throughout the hierarchy of a company.

OKR vs KPI: Distinguishing measures of success

While both OKRs and KPIs (key performance indicators) are essential for measuring success, they serve different purposes. KPIs track the ongoing performance of specific processes, often reflecting past performance trends. But, OKRs are forward-looking and emphasize setting and achieving specific objectives within a defined timeframe.

For instance, consider a marketing team's KPI of "monthly website traffic." This metric tracks the performance of the website over time. In contrast, an OKR for the same team could be "Increase website traffic by 15% in the next quarter," setting a clear goal to work towards.

The benefits of OKRs: Driving growth and focus

The adoption of the OKR framework offers compelling benefits for businesses and individuals:

  • Work with clarity: OKRs ensure that everyone in the organization is aligned with the company's goals and understands their role in achieving them.
  • Focus on what matters: OKRs help teams prioritize the most impactful activities that directly contribute to the defined objectives.
  • Agility and adaptability: OKRs are set for shorter periods, enabling teams to adjust their strategies based on real-time feedback and changing market conditions.
  • Motivation and engagement: Clearly defined objectives can inspire and motivate team members, as they understand the significance of their contributions and how they roll up to the larger vision.
  • Transparency and accountability: OKRs foster a culture of transparency, as progress is often visible to the entire team, and individuals are held accountable for their commitments.
An example of how you can display and interconnect OKRs in Charma

OKR examples

To truly grasp the potential of OKRs and how to wield them effectively, let's delve into practical OKR examples. In this section, we'll explore three distinct levels of OKRs:

  • high-level company objectives that steer the entire organization
  • department-level objectives that fine-tune specific areas of focus
  • individual objectives designed to nurture personal growth and skill enhancement

Each example provides valuable insights into the art of crafting and implementing OKRs, shedding light on how this framework can fuel progress and success across the board.

High-level company OKR example

Objective: Become a global leader in sustainable energy solutions

Key Results:

  • Achieve a 30% increase in revenue from renewable energy products
  • Secure partnerships with three major international energy organizations
  • Reduce the company's carbon footprint by 25%

In this example, the objective reflects the company's overarching goal of leadership in sustainable energy solutions. The first key result, increasing revenue from renewable energy products, directly supports the objective by focusing on financial growth. The second key result emphasizes collaboration and expansion through partnerships. The third key result aligns with the company's commitment to environmental sustainability.

Department-level OKR example

Objective: Optimize customer support and increase customer satisfaction

Key Results:

  • Make customer inquiry response times 40% faster
  • Attain a customer satisfaction score (CSAT) of 90 or higher
  • Implement a new chatbot system to handle routine queries by Q2

Here, the objective revolves around optimizing customer support and increasing customer satisfaction. The first key result emphasizes response time, aiming for a significant improvement. The second key result sets a clear metric for customer satisfaction, an essential aspect of effective customer support. The third key result introduces a specific solution, the implementation of a chatbot system, to streamline routine queries.

Individual OKR example

Objective: Enhance personal leadership skills

Key Results:

  • Enroll in a leadership course to develop communication and team management skills
  • Initiate and lead a cross-functional project to demonstrate leadership abilities
  • Seek and apply feedback from team members in quarterly self-assessments

This individual's OKR emphasizes personal growth in leadership skills. The key results focus on actionable steps that contribute to the broader objective. The first key result involves a proactive step of enrolling in a course, showcasing a commitment to self-improvement. The second key result encourages taking the lead in a project, fostering hands-on leadership experience. The third key result underscores the importance of continuous improvement through feedback and self-assessment.

Best practices for setting and achieving good OKRs

Implementing OKRs requires more than an understanding of its components; it demands a strategic approach, careful consideration, and commitment from all levels of an organization.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind that will help you set and achieve OKRs effectively.

Best practices for setting good OKRs

  • Clearly define objectives: Start by setting clear and inspiring objectives that align with your overall business goals. These objectives should be aspirational and provide a sense of purpose.
  • Keep it ambitious: OKRs are meant to push boundaries. Strive for ambitious yet achievable goals that inspire growth.
  • Quantify key results: The key results associated with each objective should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). In doing so, you’ll make progress and success objectively assessable.
  • Cascade objectives: Align objectives across different levels of the organization. Company-wide objectives should trickle down to departmental and individual levels to ensure alignment and unity of purpose.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity: A handful of well-crafted OKRs are more effective than numerous vague ones. Quality over quantity is key.

Best practices for managing your OKRs

  • Regular check-ins and progress tracking: Schedule regular check-ins to review the progress of each OKR. These meetings also provide an opportunity to discuss challenges, adjust strategies, and offer support as needed.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: OKRs are not set in stone. Be open to adjusting your OKRs if conditions change or new opportunities arise. The framework's agility allows you to remain responsive.
  • Transparency and accountability: Make your OKRs visible to the entire team or organization. Transparency fosters accountability, and team members can see how their individual contributions align with larger objectives.
  • Celebrate achievements: Take time to acknowledge and appreciate wins as you work towards your OKR. Celebrating progress boosts morale and motivation.
  • Learn from setbacks: You won’t always hit your OKRs, and that's okay. Use setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve your goal setting process.

📌 Read about common OKR mistakes to avoid →

How to streamline OKR implementation using Charma

Proper implementation of the OKR framework is so much more than defining objectives and key results; it’s about setting your company up for success with OKRs that are consistently tracked, discussed, and made visible to everyone.

That’s where Charma comes in. Charma provides a comprehensive platform for recording, sharing, measuring, visualizing, and achieving your OKRs. It enables all team members within an organization to be on the same page, without the costs of manually tracking, updating, or sharing your OKRs.

During your team or company’s goal setting exercise, you can set ambitious OKRs following the best practices outlined above, and conveniently establish them within Charma.

Setting up your OKRs in Charma

  • Key results: You can easily link your objectives in Charma to the key results of your choosing. For each objective, choose between a custom KPI, a series of sub-goals, or a set of action items. Use our built-in AI to help you generate those sub-goals or action items.
  • Cascading OKRs: Charma reflects and visualizes the concept of cascading OKRs. You can link individual and team goals to department and company-wide goals within the platform just as you would during a goal setting session. The platform will portray the relationships between various objectives, making it clear how smaller objectives roll up into a larger vision, and who is accountable for what, increasing both alignment and transparency.
  • Privacy: You have the flexibility to choose the appropriate privacy setting for your OKRs in Charma. Making them public to everyone in your organization can boost transparency and understanding among your teams.
  • Automatic check-ins and reminders: With Charma, you'll never lose sight of your goals. When you tie your OKRs to the relevant workspace, you can set your preferred check-in interval for each OKR. Charma will automatically create discussion topics about each OKR in the designated workspace at the specified cadence, ensuring you stay on top of them.
  • Team focus: Each workspace in Charma has a dedicated view of the OKRs tied to that workspace, providing each team with a close-up of the OKRs for which they’re responsible.

Managing your OKRs with Charma

  • Progress tracking: As you work towards your objectives, Charma offers a visual representation of your progress, helping you monitor your journey effectively. When you set sub-goals or action items as your key results, Charma automatically tracks their progress, streamlining the management process.
  • Updating OKRs: OKRs in Charma can be updated as needed, such as when conditions change or priorities shift. For example, a goal target of 100 new customers can be updated to 120 new customers if new opportunities arise. Charma automatically maintains a history log of all such changes, and a comments feature allows you to add context to those changes. This ensures that anyone checking in on an OKR has access to all the necessary information.

📌 Read about the latest additions to Charma’s Goals tool

Companies that have succeeded using the OKR framework

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, or to better understand how the OKR framework works in practice, look no further. Here are some real-life examples of well-known, successful companies that used the OKR framework to grow their businesses exponentially.

Embrace the power of OKRs

In an ever-evolving business landscape, setting and achieving goals is a constant challenge. OKRs (objectives and key results) offer a structured approach to goal setting that goes beyond mere wishful thinking. They bridge the gap between aspiration and execution, offering a roadmap that can guide organizations, teams, and individuals towards success and promote a culture of innovation, transparency, and accountability.

By following best practices and leveraging real-world examples, you can harness the power of OKRs to drive growth and excellence. Set your sights high with ambitious objectives, quantify your path with measurable key results, and navigate towards success with determination and purpose. The world of possibilities is open—embrace the power of OKRs and pave your way towards growth and achievement.

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