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OKRs: The Framework for Goal Alignment and Performance

Objectives and key results (OKRs) help businesses create strategic plans and facilitate team alignment. Learn how to successfully implement OKRs here.

Whether you're setting the goal of developing your first product or creating milestones for your growing enterprise, establishing objectives is at the heart of your success. No matter how big or small, each goal you set will propel you down the path of achievement. However, not all goals are created equally. Goals without purpose or drive will do little to help your organization thrive.

We've all set vague goals in the past, such as "become more healthy" or "read more books," but many often abandon these lofty ambitions within weeks. In fact, a study found that 64% of people give up on their New Year's resolutions within the first month. With the odds stacked against you, how can you avoid the pitfall of quitting too early and retiring your ambitions? The key to success is setting measurable goals that align with your main business plans, customer needs, and market conditions.

Goals with accountability and measurable initiatives will likely triumph. There are various types of management methodologies to help you set better goals and consistently measure success. This guide will outline how to develop a solid framework for goal alignment and performance using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

What are OKRs?

Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, help communicate the goals and milestones you'll achieve. This framework entails collaborative goal-setting, allowing you to track progress, align with your team, and inspire commitment.

The main purpose of setting OKRs is to align individual and team goals with broader organizational objectives. The OKR framework encourages accountability throughout the team. These types of objectives are typically ambitious, time-bound, and measurable.

The OKR meaning is simple—set objectives and key results. Within the OKR framework, objectives are the high-level goals your business wants to achieve and are typically set quarterly or annually. The main objectives provide a sense of direction for the company and guide the organization’s goal-setting system.

The next aspect is key results. This is when the company outlines measurable milestones that define the progress made when achieving an objective. An objective can have several key results defined. These should all be quantifiable in order to indicate progression and success. A great way to set key results is to use the SMART methodology. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

OKRs are generally cascading. This means that high-level objectives are set across the board and cascade down into departmental goals. Each team in your company adjusts its key results based on the company's main objectives at large. OKRs need to be tracked and measured to help everyone stay on track. It’s important to foster an environment of accountability and transparency so there's a culture of encouragement and shared success.

Objectives and key results can be adjusted to suit your company's specific needs and culture. However, the core principles of setting ambitious goals and measurable results remain the same.

The OKR methodology differs from Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Whereas OKRs outline overarching goals and measurable milestones needed to achieve the main objectives, KPIs focus on specific metrics used to measure the performance of activities or functions within an organization.

KPIs are generally narrow in scope and heavily emphasize monitoring and improving performance. OKRs are typically qualifiable, while KPIs are quantifiable. Examples of KPIs include conversion rate in relation to sales or Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT).

OKRs and KPIs can complement each other in a company’s performance management efforts. In fact, some businesses use KPIs as key results.

Examples of objectives and key results

What do objectives and key results look like in a business context?

First, you need to define your objective. Then, detail several key results that will act as measurable milestones on the path toward reaching your goal. Finally, outline a few initiatives to provide actionable direction for achieving each step in your plan.

Let’s say one of your main goals this year is to improve customer satisfaction. Here's what your OKRs might look like:

  • Objective: Our customer satisfaction has never been higher.
  • Key result #1: Achieve a Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) of 90% or higher in feedback surveys.
  • Key result #2: Reduce average customer inquiry response time to under 24 hours.
  • Key result #3: Increase the percentage of repeat customers by 15% compared to the previous quarter.
  • Initiative: Craft new copy for customer survey requests.
  • Initiative: Launch a chatbot to help respond to customer inquiries directly.

In this example, the main objective is to reach an all-time high in customer satisfaction. As we can see, the goal is an overarching idea that focuses on qualifiable results. We then add in a few key results that are quantitative. We can directly measure the CSAT averages, the number of inquiry responses that are sent out on time, and the percentage increase of repeat customers. These key results are further supported by several initiatives.

Here's another example of OKRs with a focus on learning and experimentation:

  • Objective: Foster creativity and innovation throughout the organization.
  • Key result #1: Launch a company-wide ideation platform and receive 50 new ideas within the first 3 weeks of launching.
  • Key result #2: Allocate 15% of employee working hours to engage in team development and innovation projects.
  • Key result #3: Implement at least 3 ideas from the innovation platform into new processes, products, or services.
  • Initiative: Create incentives for participating in the innovation program.
  • Initiative: Set up working spaces to foster team collaboration.

Writing OKRs and establishing proper alignment across teams becomes easier when the desired outcome is clearly defined. Based on the objective and key results, the entire company will be working towards the same purpose. The OKRs defined serve as an action plan for your company.

As we see in the 2 examples detailed above, this goal-setting framework is designed to increase business performance, improve employee engagement, and achieve business strategy alignment.

Types of OKRs

There are 3 main areas within the OKR framework. Companies use these different types of OKRs to achieve various goals, depending on the company’s strategic priorities and stage of development.


Like its name, aspirational OKRs are ambitious and designed to push boundaries and stretch goals. Aspirational OKRs are made when seeking breakthrough results and often have a higher level of uncertainty or risk. While these OKRs may not be entirely realizable within the timeframe set, they serve as motivation for achieving higher levels of performance.

Aspirational OKRs often call for innovation and increased effort, but even if a team falls short of reaching its main objective, significant progress will have been made and each key result will hold great value.

For example, an aspirational OKR may be for your company to become an industry leader in sustainable practices. While you may not achieve this in a matter of months, every victory made from the key results will propel you one step closer to reaching the objective in the future.


On the other side of the spectrum are committed OKRs. These are goals deemed achievable due to their realistic and practical nature. Teams can confidently devote their efforts to these OKRs, thus the name of committed OKRs.

Developing these objectives and key results come from understanding your company’s resources and capabilities. Because they're more realistic, it's easy for teams to make strong commitments and foster a sense of accountability and accomplishment.

An example of a committed OKR is to improve operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This objective can be set based on existing knowledge and market conditions, making it highly achievable thanks to measurable outcomes.

Overall, committed OKRs set out a clear path toward accomplishing specific outcomes within defined timelines.


Lastly, learning OKRs focus more on experimentation and exploration. Creating OKRs with new ideas and approaches in mind fosters learning. Acquiring knowledge and testing hypotheses are part of developing learning indicators. These objectives and key results help your company prioritize discovery and learning rather than simply focusing on achieving a desired outcome.

Enhancing cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing is a good example of a learning OKR. The emphasis here is on learning and adapting internal processes based on insights gained. These types of OKRs can also help guide future OKRs. They often involve developing new skills or conducting research and fostering a culture of perpetual learning.

Why are OKRs important?

OKRs are an integral aspect of developing an organizational strategy. Setting OKRs will help improve business performance from the top down.

Here are some of the benefits of implementing OKRs in your company strategy:


OKRs work to align an entire organization with their primary objectives. Aligning OKRs is important for tracking progress and ensuring that all functional teams are working in the interests of the company. Key results and initiatives may look different across teams, but the end goal remains the same. Alignment is a key step in the goal-setting process since it helps each team member stay focused.

Establish expectations

OKRs lay the groundwork for what's expected of your employees. Most companies set goals, but smart companies set OKRs. Establishing OKRs increases focus throughout your organization and provides transparency so team members know their responsibilities and what tools they can use to achieve goals.

Optimize resource allocation and management

Good OKRs are clear, detailed, and achievable. Setting company-wide goals can help the leadership team optimize resource allocation and improve management techniques.

Ensure accountability

When team members understand what is expected of them, they develop a greater sense of accountability. A higher level of accountability encourages people to work towards measurable goals actively. Establishing key results also helps guide the goal-setting process and provides key checkpoints.

Increase transparency

When everyone in the entire organization knows and understands the OKR program, there's a greater sense of transparency and trust in leadership. Company OKRs provide a sense of direction and allow everyone to feel like they're on the same page.

Measure progress

Establishing key results is an effective tool for measuring progress. Monitoring OKR progress allows all teams to stay on track toward achieving important objectives. Measurable key results serve as milestones for team members to assess performance and make adjustments as needed. Good OKRs are data-driven, providing meaningful insights for continuous optimization.

Improve agility

The business environment is constantly changing and evolving, meaning that adaptability is key. Create OKRs that are flexible and easily adjustable according to shifting priorities or unforeseen circumstances. The main purpose of introducing OKRs is to encourage a growth mindset, learning environment, and strategic framework to keep organizations competitive.

Motivate and engage employees

Finally, OKRs are a powerful tool for motivating employees. Creating engaging OKRs encourages team members to actively participate in achieving the organization's goals.

Tips for writing OKRs

How do you write great OKRs? From introducing leading indicators to establishing clear expectations, there are several ways to implement OKRs successfully.

Here are a few tips for writing effective OKRs:

  • Be specific and realistic to ensure OKRs are achievable and measurable. OKRs shouldn’t be vague but rather defined precisely. OKR success is a direct result of setting realistic expectations. At the same time, establish OKRs that are inspiring and motivate teams to push their limits. Write key results that are meaningful and strategic to keep your company aligned and on the path toward success.
  • Make OKRs clear and concise. Your OKR program should be easy to understand to encourage engagement and boost morale. Setting too many OKRs with endless key results can prevent your team from finding success. Common OKR mistakes include adding too many objectives and results with unclear parameters. Focus on covering key areas without overwhelming teams with too many goals.
  • Review team OKRs regularly to evaluate effectiveness and implementation rates. Consistent reviews allow for self-reflection and adaptability. Goals and priorities may change throughout the course of the year depending on market conditions and trends, so reviewing your OKR methodology and making adjustments as needed is key.
  • Embrace a learning mindset to encourage experimentation and collaboration. You can learn from successes and failures to determine areas of improvement. Achieving OKRs will lead your organization to success, but you can also learn from the failures to understand which OKR tools are most effective for your specific needs.

Reach your goals with OKRs

Setting meaningful OKRs will help you achieve your strategic and marketing goals. Start by analyzing your organization's needs and priorities. Next, look at OKR examples to understand how they function in practice and what elements you can implement for your own business.

How many OKRs should you set? There's no magic number for how many goals to set. Rather, examine your stage of business development and establish individual OKRs accordingly. Since effective goals need to be time-bound, you can define an OKR cycle for your organization. Perhaps your focus this quarter is on streamlining efficiency, but next quarter you focus on growing your customer base.

The OKR process is unique to every company, but if you follow the principles outlined above, you can create a strategy that works.

When setting goals, it's important to measure success and impact. The only way to reach your goals is to create a meaningful structure for achieving them. Mailchimp offers a suite of marketing analytics and tools to help your business thrive. Continually review your priorities and main objectives to plan your next steps.

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