What are OKRs? Why do they matter? And how the heck do you even use them? Is it just another business acronym? Or will it actually improve the way your organization works?
Great questions that demand great answers — in this guide, we’ll try to answer them as clearly as possible.
And to make your life even easier, we’ll hand you a list of real-life examples of OKRs in some of the main departments of the average organization, including marketing, sales, customer support, HR, management, and more.
Good? Then let’s get straight to the heart of the matter…
What are OKRs?
The acronym “OKR” stands for Objectives and Key Results.
It’s a goal-setting methodology that helps you define where you want your project or campaign to go and map out actionable steps to actually get there.
Back in the 1980s, the late Andrew Grove — former CEO at Intel — first introduced this concept to the public. He wrote a book called “High Output Management” in which he documented the OKR theory and how to implement it.
To date, companies like Google, LinkedIn, Uber, and Microsoft have used this method to become industry leaders and develop great workplaces.
In the words of Larry Page, co-founder at Google:
“OKRs have helped lead us to 10X growth, many times over. [ … ] They’ve kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered the most.”
How does the OKR method work?
To explain it better, let’s don the shoes of Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, for a moment.
Last time I checked, Uber’s vision statement read:
“Smarter transportation with fewer cars and greater access. Transportation that’s safer, cheaper, and more reliable; transportation that creates more job opportunities and higher incomes for drivers.”
Sounds amazing, right?
But how do you actually achieve something like that?
Well, here’s where OKRs come in handy.
In the OKR framework, you start by setting a real company objective — usually by quarter. This objective must be aligned with your vision and mission statements and be inspirational.
In the case of Uber, that objective could be “smarter transportation with fewer cars and greater access.”
You then follow with a series of key results — the milestones on the road to success. If you hit these milestones, that big, somewhat impossible objective becomes more tangible.
For instance, Uber’s key results could be:
- Increase the number of drivers by 30% by next quarter.
- Increase regional driver coverage to 90% in X major cities.
- Increase pick up time speed to 11 minutes max during peak hours.
This gives you a more granular, measurable structure to achieve your main objectives. By the end of each quarter, you know whether you’re closer to the goal or you need some adjustment.
When you apply the OKR approach effectively, the results can be game-changing — teams get more focused and aligned with the overall objective.
Why are OKRs vital for your business?
Everyone and their uncle knows the importance of setting measurable goals.
Unfortunately, knowing something and doing something about it are 2 different beasts.
For example, research shows that nearly 40% projects fail due to a lack of clear goals and milestones:
On the other hand, those who write objectives down are 20% more likely to actually achieve them.
And the people who set actionable tasks for their objectives and constantly measure progress are 40% more successful than those who don’t.
Now, what does this mean for you?If you want to grow, achieve more, and evolve, you must set clear objectives. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll get nowhere.
And objectives without a clear roadmap are useless. You need measurable, actionable steps that take you from point A to point B and help you measure progress.
That’s why the OKR process is so vital.
This approach not only encourages you to define your objectives, but also the key results — or milestones — you need to achieve them, which boosts your chances of success.
Besides, OKRs foster transparency.
Everyone in your organization can see each other’s goals — from the CEO down to the salesperson — aligning work toward a shared mission.
What’s the difference between OKRs and KPIs?
Now, before we get into the examples section, let’s talk about a common misconception: OKRs and KPIs. What are the differences? Can you use them interchangeably? Or are they completely different concepts?
Well, the truth is both elements help you measure progress, but at a different level.
As we stated earlier, OKR is an abbreviation for Objectives and Key Results.
KPI, on the other hand, stands for Key Performance Indicator.
To better understand the differences between these concepts, we need to describe the 3 elements that make them up:
- Goals: a specific direction you want to follow or a result you want to achieve.
- Metrics: quantifiable measures to monitor the progress toward your company goals.
- Targets: indicators of the performance you aim to achieve.
For example, imagine that you’re the owner of a digital marketing agency. Your goal, metrics, and targets might look something like this:
- Goal: Get cheaper conversions for client A
- Metrics: CPC (Cost per Click), sales page conversion rate
- CPC ($1)
- Sales page conversion rate (5%)
Now, let’s say client A is selling a product that costs $100.
Currently, it costs you $50 to acquire a new customer. Your goal is to reduce that cost to $10.
How do you do it?
By achieving your targets…
Getting a 5% conversion rate on your sales page means that 5 out of 100 visitors will buy the product. So, if you’re able to get clicks for $1, you’ll be making $500 for every $100 spent on advertising.
In this case, your targets become your KPIs — these numbers will indicate how you’re doing in terms of performance and give you clues on what to fix in your strategy.
For instance, if you’re getting $1 clicks, but your conversion rate is just 1%, it’s a clear sign your sales page needs some work.
In short, KPIs are single indicators that let you discover areas of improvement. All together, they form a balanced scorecard.
On the other hand, OKRs involve multiple elements — a global objective and a handful of key results that help achieve this objective (usually 3 to 5).
Following the previous example, if your advertising clicks rise above $2, then you might create an OKR to improve that KPI, which could look like this:
Objective: Reduce cost per click on advertising campaigns
- Create 3 new advertising angles that engage the right users
- Test 2 new advertising platforms to compare costs
- Add a more compelling call to action on each ad to reduce CPC
Said simpler, OKR is a goal-setting system and KPIs are metrics to measure performance. Though different, both concepts work in tandem to help you make sense of your data and improve your decision-making.
19 examples of OKRs in the real world
Now that you understand how OKRs work and why they matter, it’s time to give you some real-life examples.
We’ll separate these examples by category, focusing on the main departments that make up your organization.
Let’s break them down.
Most marketing teams pay close attention to KPIs, but ignore the inspirational, goal-driven side of the process and leave OKRs aside.
The thing is, with the right objectives in mind, your team will achieve more success.
Some examples of OKRs in marketing include:
Objective 1: Improve our content marketing efforts
- Create 3 new pieces of content every week
- Create a lead magnet to collect 2,000 leads
- Rank #1 for a cornerstone keyword
Objective 2: Grow brand awareness
- Get 5 mentions on authoritative sites
- Grow our Twitter following from 1,000 to 2,000
- Create a new partnership with a prominent influencer in the industry
Objective 3: Increase the number of MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads)
- Get 100 MQLs from Facebook Ads
- Get 100 MQLS from email marketing
- Structure an educational mini-course to nurture new leads
The first step to structure a powerful sales team is to design a solid pipeline.
If you haven’t done that yet, we suggest you try our sales pipeline template. It’s pretty easy to set up and you can adapt it to your needs in minutes.
Next, you should define a clear vision that inspires your people to stick to the process and offer their best.
Here’s where OKRs come in handy.
Objective 1: Improve our sales processes
- Ensure at least 80% of prospects get a follow-up call after 7 days
- Purchase a new software to manage and streamline our pipeline
- Improve sales conversion rate from 20% to 25%
- Train our sales team on industry best practices
Objective 2: Grow our MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)
- Upsell our most loyal clients on a new service
- Increase pricing by 3%
- Drive-up retention rates from 60% to 80%
Objective 3: Increase our New York sales
- Hire a local salesperson who builds relationships with NY-based businesses
- Perform research on the main problems of NY-based prospects
- Grow our New York sales from 10 to 50 clients
Customer service OKRs
What’s the difference between regular customer service teams and exceptional ones?
You guessed it…the right vision.
When your team has clear OKRs and understands what they should focus on, it’s much easier to achieve big results.
Some examples of OKRs in the customer service field are:
Objective 1: Improve the customer experience
- Send a personalized thank you letter to new customers
- Achieve customer rating of at least 4 out of 5 on major reviewing networks
- Reduce average response time from 2 days to 24 hours.
- Reduce the number of customer complaints by 10%
Objective 2: Get a better understanding of our audience
- Get 500 poll responses on SurveyMonkey
- Interview 15 clients on the phone
- Schedule a Zoom meeting with at least 10 unsatisfied customers
- Install a Live Chat app on our website
Objective 3: Improve our customer service team
- Hire 5 new customer service executives
- Develop a top-notch training program on customer support best practices
- Train our staff on the use of software to increase efficiency
Product development OKRs
Product development can be tricky.
Sometimes you feel confident about the direction you should follow.
Other times you feel pretty much lost.
Well, the right OKRs won’t solve all your problems, but will make it easier to find the right solutions.
Some examples of OKRs in product development are:
Objective 1: Launch 2.0 version of our core software
- Improve user experience by 10%
- Remove step 3 from user journey
- Announce the launch to our waiting list
Objective 2: Reduce the number of product errors
- Reduce average of reported bugs from 10 to 5 after each release
- Implement a testing department to spot potential errors in our products
Recruiting high performers is a must for your HR department.
And while they may already be using a recruitment pipeline to track hires (like the example below) OKRs can help them focus on recruiting the right ones.
Note: If you liked the pipeline structure shown above, you can take a look at the template here (it’s fully customizable).
Some examples might be:
Objective 1: Develop a more competent recruiting team
- Schedule individual meetings with all the members of the team to find what they need
- Hire an HR consultant to train our recruiting team
- Follow up with participants and create a report on improvements
- Conduct an employee evaluation twice per year
Objective 2: Increase employee performance across the organization
- Increase employee satisfaction by 30% in our annual survey
- Interview 50% of employees to discover improvement areas
- Increase employee wellbeing budget by 10%
Objective 3: Create and promote a value-driven culture
- Structure an organization-wide culture event where at least 80% of employees attend
- Train leadership team on the values of the organization and how to share them with their subordinates
As we stated earlier, OKRs have helped some of the biggest companies on earth achieve extraordinary results.
One of the reasons is that OKRs give leadership a clear indicator of performance and provide them with vital clues for better decision-making.
If you want to tap into these benefits, start by adopting OKRs in your management approach.
Here are some examples to inspire you:
Objective 1: Create a more enjoyable workplace
- Perform a global survey to gather ideas for improvement
- Implement at least 1 idea by next quarter
- Implement a games area for employees
- Increase overall employee satisfaction by at least 20%
Objective 2: Break a new record in profits
- Grow our customer base from 20,000 to 100,000
- Reduce production costs by 30%
- Create a growth department with 4 engineers and 3 marketing professionals
Objective 3: Improve overall efficiency
- Conduct a weekly meeting to figure out how to improve our processes
- Get rid of at least 5 useless steps in our process
- Spot at least 1 potential bottleneck in the organization
No matter how much you love accounting, numbers eventually turn dull.
And OKRs are one of the most practical ways to spice up your accounting team’s routine. The right goals will keep them motivated.
Some examples include:
Objective 1: Create a better, long-term tax strategy
- Consult with 4 tax experts for the best strategies in the industry
- Cut tax bill by 10% next year
- Find 3 new ways to reduce taxes within the company
- Implement an external tax compliance audit
Objective 2: Offer a more competitive base salary
- Perform competitor research to find salary ranges in the industry
- Conduct an employee survey to discover real salary expectations
- Brainstorm ideas with the team twice a month to develop a more competitive salary program next year
How to improve your goal-setting process with OKR softwareThe OKR methodology works wonders because it keeps you accountable — it helps you quickly realize whether you’re going in the right direction and make decisions accordingly.
If you try to track your progress manually you’ll face inconsistencies in your data and miss the whole point.
Here’s where software becomes really helpful.
The right Work OS can help you organize your data, measure progress with accuracy, and turn your information into valuable insights about your business.
If you’re looking for a platform that’s easy-to-use, flexible, and powerful, then monday.com might be right for you.
To help you decide, let’s start with a basic question:
What is monday.com?
monday.com is a fully customizable Work OS where teams get their work done more efficiently.
What does this mean?
With monday.com, you can:
- Design multiple workflows
- Organize teams and work
- Visualize your data and make better decisions
- Manage projects from start to finish
- Improve collaboration and remove silos between departments
And many more.
When we say our platform is customizable, we mean it. From the start, you get access to multiple Lego-style building blocks you can move around at will to design a platform that suits your specific needs and brand.
Currently, more than 100,000 teams — including Coca-Cola, Adobe, and Universal Studios — trust us to manage their organizations. And many of them have experienced massive growth and improvement.
To see for yourself, we suggest you read some of our success stories here.
In the context of OKRs, you can simply install our OKR template, fill in your information, and start tracking your progress in a couple of minutes.
Some of the benefits of this template include:
- Increase team alignment: invite team members and share your company goals and key results with everyone to increase transparency and alignment.
- Get more clarity: consolidate all your data into a single, visual workspace to get a better understanding of what’s going on in your business.
- Make smarter decisions: get advanced reports based on your business goals, import and export data from Excel spreadsheets, and get valuable insights about your progress.
- Customize the experience: get access to multiple column types and design the template the way you want.
Features and benefits
Now, to be honest, that’s just barely scratching the surface.
Some other monday.com’s helpful features include:
- Data dashboards: pull information from one or multiple boards and turn it into a customizable dashboard.
- Multiple data visualizations: get access to your data through multiple views, including Kanban, Map, Gantt, and more.
- Intuitive interface: a visual, intuitive interface your team can use with no training whatsoever.
- Automations: access automation recipes that’ll save you tons of time.
- Integrations: integrate more than 40 of your current software tools and apps.
To make it simpler, here’s a quick overview of everything you can do with monday.com:
OKRs help define goals and track progress
Setting clear, smart goals and objectives is vital for the success of any organization, including yours. The OKR framework gives you the guidelines to start on the right foot and get the most out of your work.
Just don’t forget the importance of tracking progress along the way.
If you don’t know how you’re doing against your plan, you won’t be able to optimize your strategy.
A digital workspace, like monday.com, can help you turn raw data into actionable insights about your business so you can make smarter decisions.
To see for yourself, we suggest you try out our fully customizable OKR template and experience the power of a true Work OS.