What is OKR?
The OKR method is an adaptable framework for defining and realizing objectives. The abbreviation stands for "Objectives & Key Results": At the center of the framework are objectives, the realization of which is pursued by achieving measurable key results.
OKRs are defined, tracked and realigned in a comparatively short, often quarterly cycle. This applies to the organization as a whole on the one hand, and to each individual team on the other. This results in a simple, agile and quickly executable process that incorporates the perspective of all departments. This results in one of the main advantages of the OKR method: the alignment of the entire organization with transparent, comprehensible goals. Even in a dynamic environment, this ensures that all employees, teams and managers are committed to the same path with clear priorities. In contrast to many traditional methods, the focus is not on carrying out certain activities - but on measurably meeting the Key Results. In OKR, the focus is not on completing projects or working through tasks, but on the effect or result of these measures.
OKR as an agile framework
Objectives & Key Results can do even more than help formulate goals and facilitate communication. The OKR framework sees itself as an agile system that synchronizes long- and short-term goals as well as different roles, teams or business units. It is strongly influenced by the agile values of review and adaptation, continuity and self-commitment. Teams commit themselves to their OKRs without any bonus or other promises tied to their achievement that come with traditional employee goal-setting tools. The high level of involvement of all stakeholders makes the OKR method an effective leadership tool and organizational model that also works independently of existing structures.
OKRs can be combined particularly well with Scrum because typical events in the OKR model can be structured similarly to the familiar events in a sprint. In this way, Scrum can specify the operational rhythm on the basis of the sprint cycles, while clearly defined OKRs point the way on a quarterly basis. The framework even recognizes a role not unlike the Scrum Master: The OKR Coach supports teams and management in formulating their goals and results, clears obstacles out of the way and coordinates the continuous improvement of the method.
Proven, results-oriented, successful
OKR has been around since the seventies. The concept was developed by Andy Grove for Intel and used with great success. He was inspired by Peter Drucker's "Management by Objectives". However, OKR became popular through John Doerr, one of Google's earliest investors. Since their introduction at Google in 1999, the first year of their existence, Objectives & Key Results have consistently supported the growth of the group from 40 employees at that time to over 60,000 today.
To this day, the OKR method remains a guiding light for a wide range of successful companies, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Dropbox, Spotify, AirBnB, Uber and, of course, Google. But it's not just for digital organizations. More traditional companies like Walmart, The Guardian, and ING-DiBa also use OKR profitably.
Objectives & Key Results are a powerful tool for results-oriented goal definition and tracking. On a small scale, they contribute to higher transparency and better communication, but can also easily carry the design and implementation of an organization-wide digital transformation. However, one thing remains crucial at any scale: OKRs are a continuous process that requires consistent implementation and high transparency. Used in this way, OKRs become the lodestar of a results- and goal-oriented organization.
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