OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results for setting measurable goals.
Used by everyone in an organization from the CEOs to brand new hires, OKRs have become something of a cornerstone in successful companies. The likes of Google and Walmart number among the companies who credit adopting the OKR system of setting and tracking targets with immense growth.
According to John Doerr, the man behind introducing OKRs at Google, the structure is particularly important:
I will (Objective) as measured by (set of Key Results)
Using this format, the objective should be a short, aspirational and motivational goal, while the key results should be metric-based and easily measurable.
In this way, OKRs are an effective way of introducing a quantitative measure to qualitative goals, helping businesses focus and achieve the aggressive growth targets software development teams so often need to meet.
Agile Working: Individual or Team OKRs?
A proper textbook implementation would see different OKRs set at every level and hierarchy, from individual OKRs for career development to the scrum team’s OKRs to keep everyone on track. Organizations with mature OKR implementations will see them being used for department projects, all the way up to the interdepartmental programs.
One of the plus points of OKRs is that they are agile by design. Once set, they lend themselves well to regular monitoring and tracking of key results. the objectives and key results themselves should also be re-evaluated on a regular basis. This ensures that they remain aligned with the business, team, or projects’ priorities.
Individual OKRs should therefore always be set with a view to aligning individuals in a company to the same overarching set of business goals. But in an agile organisation where software teams work in a scrum-based manner, is this enough?
In these situations, the most effective approach is arguably to have both individual and team OKRs. Individual OKRs are ideal for setting and tracking professional development goals, but when it comes to scrum teams, setting OKRs at a team level can have great effect.
Rather than goals being set and then handed down to teams, team OKRs are created as a collaborative effort. As well as being aligned to the same goals, teams that work together towards achieving team level OKRs foster a far stronger sense of shared accountability and motivation. This is further aided by the visibility into team progress team OKRs allow for.
Take the following example:
As a team, we will deploy the service to the production as measured by:
- Key result 1
- Key result 2
- Key result 3
- Key result 4
As well as giving a team one collective goal to focus on, team OKRs work for agile teams because they allow for at-a-glance progress reports. This frees up more time for the team to focus on what they do best: getting the work done. With the right goals and tools in place, such as a project tracking tool like Jira in conjunction with specialized OKR extensions, a morning stand-up can be more efficient than ever with a visualization of progress in one place:
- Goal summary
- Progress summary
- Progress line chart
- Recent activity
All team members will be able to track progress as needed, identify any red flags early on, and adapt and address issues before they develop into bigger problems. The focus remains on growth without slowing down.
What’s more, this level of visibility allows for teams to use trend lines to predict whether they are on track to achieving OKRs or if they need to be re-evaluated — taking one of the major benefits of OKRs and extending it even further to suit the needs of agile teams.
Check out OKRs for Jira and start tracking Objectives and Key Results visibly and directly within Jira.