Looking for info on developing my OKRs (Objectives, and Key Results)

I’m looking for succinct directions on creating OKRs. My understanding is that OKRs are at a median level between Goals and Tasks, which sounds like where I would like to plan for the New Year.

I bought John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters, but have found it long on anecdotes and short on practical advice. I haven’t finished it, so if I’ve missed something, please let me know.

I looked at another book by Christina Wodtke, Radical Focus… and it seems to be more of the same.
I already know that Google and HP and The Gates Foundation are successful, I want to know how to implement OKRs for myself.


In my use of OKRs, Objective and Goals are the same – the big rocks: “I will accomplish X by date”. The Key Results are metrics that quantify progress toward the Objective that the KR belongs to. Objectives should have 3 - 5 KRs.

Tasks on the other hand are a level down from objectives – they are the things you do to accomplish the objective. Accomplishment is measured by the KRs. Not every KR has a single task, and not every task has a corresponding KR – but there should be a close alignment between performing tasks, achieving KRs, and accomplishing the goal. Get rid of superfluous tasks. In the example below, “eat a croissant every morning” might be an enjoyable task, but has nothing concrete to do with the goal.


I am going to master the first year course in French by September 30, 2020. I will measure progress by 1) number of interactive workshops completed per month; 2) achieving a score of at least 95% on each weekly vocabulary text; and 3) achieving a comprehension score of at least 95% on each bi-weekly reading test. My tasks will be: a) study each morning from 7 to 8 am and each evening from 6 to 7 pm; b) take the vocabulary test each Thursday afternoon by 4:00 PM; c) take the reading test every other Wednesday by 10:00 AM; d) meet with my tutor every Friday at 9 am.

Maybe that’s too personalized, but it’s what works for me.



See also this recent thread in the OF forums & the link I posted on LogFrame methodology there

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OKR’s feel like putting a new wrapper on an old problem: knowing your goals and what it takes to get to that goal. It all comes down to lag indicators and lead indicators: lead indicators = doing the things to get you to your goal; lag indicators = are you getting to where you want via measurement of the lead indicators. Nothing really new or different from GTD, Radical Focus, 4 disciplines of Execution, etc.

ALL of productivity boils down to one thing and one thing only: Get on with it. Do the things and judge your progress regularly as you go.


Hrmm… I’d argue there are key differences in OKRs and some of the things you listed (GTD at least). Radical Focus is synonymous with OKR, and I’ve never heard of “4 disciplines.”

One key difference with OKRs is that they are ruthlessly quantifiable. There’s a weakness inherit in that (what if you are measuring the wrong thing??), but regardless you’ll know without a doubt whether or not you’ve hit your target.

Another key difference I see, is that OKRs are about growth, not necessarily meeting a goal. If you meet all your OKRs, you’ve aimed too low. If you miss them all, you’ve aimed too high. OKRs give you a measurable target to use as a mechanism/incentive to perform at a level you’re not sure you’re capable of achieving.


Interesting. Recommend a source for a fellow academic to do a deep-dive? :slight_smile:

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I actually think Radical Focus is a quick and good read for getting the gist. Wodtke writes a fictional account of a start-up learning (and failing) to use OKRs. It’s an effective way to get the point across and way more interesting than the typical “how to” sort of text.

I also have a close friend, an engineer who was the director of an art museum and is now running her own non-profit, who uses them religiously and I’m able to understand their value through her example.


I appreciate your reply.

Honestly, I understand that. A lot of people certainly do that. Though to some of us it’s like saying to climb Everest, you just need to start walking. After all, mountain climbing is just walking.

Here’s my internal dialog when I think through your statement:

With what?

Which things?


How often?

And for the answers to each of my questions above, there are more questions.

I’m learning, and am gradually able to fill in some blanks. The path from Earn PhD to Complete Aim 1, 2, and 3, to write this code in MATLAB is long and circuitous.

So it seems that OKRs, for all the attributes @beck mentioned, would be a way to fill in some of those intermediate steps. Not a panacea, but perhaps a framework to guide my thinking about the Goals and Objectives I have, and how to distill those down to what I need to do today to graduate next December.

Thanks for everyone’s input!
I’ll check the links you all shared, and reconsider Wodtke’s book.

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I take your point.

Also, were you ever previously involved in NLP (neurolinguistic programming)? Your line of questioning made me think of a specific subset of modeling called Meta-modeling (in reference to getting a better “map” of someone’s internal model of their world)

No, not familiar with NLP. I’ve heard the term, and that it is woo, but that’s about it.

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That’s a good way to put it, lol

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I’m in the group that considers OKRs just a different way of saying Goals and the Tasks/Projects it takes to get there.

This is the biggest issue I have with goals in general. I often have a hard time defining lead indicators. Lag ones are easy, I either got there or not.

For my year end planning and also start of next season I’m using a mish mash of systems and pulling bits and pieces that work for me from several sources. Still a bit of a work in progress but I’ll post more later this week once I finish cleaning up the scribbles.

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I read Wodtke’s book last night (thanks @beck) , and I disagree. To me, it seems more nuanced than just setting goals and GTDing until you’re finished. It involves elements of aspiration, inspiration, removing fear of failure, stirring people who might sandbag their goals (so they’ll make them easily or get their bonus) to achieve more, and learning what one is truly capable of. The system of four-quadrants (not the Eisenhower matrix) that Wodtke presents will make a nice dashboard for weekly review.

There are as many systems as there are personalities they work for. GTD, et al. may be all one needs with all the other elements of OKR innate to ones personality. For me, OKR as presented in Wodtke’s book is thought-provoking, and something I am going to explore.

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Interesting take on it. It might depend a lot on how you set goals. In all my time actively practicing and using GTD (going on 12 years now) and before that Covey and other time management, goal setting and task management tools I don’t think I’ve ever completed more than about 50% of the goals I set. Some are just too much, most morph into something else and all are stretches for what I can do now.

That’s what goals are for me. Many include aspirations. I don’t get them all accomplished but over time I do get more things done than I ever thought possible.

I’ve sent the kindle sample of the Wodtke book, will read that and see if I can stretch to read the whole thing soon enough to comment usefully on it. :wink:

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And I think the fact this happens is perfectly normal and “how the sausage gets made” in the real world.

I did a bit more of looking into OKR last night and part of today and I’m going to stand by my original opinion; I think it’s a goal-setting format with a new (old?) wrapper and if it was as groundbreaking as people are reporting, then I think we would’ve heard the term a decade or more ago as it was being implemented at companies IRT.

OKR format offers a fresh perspective and offers some perhaps more subtle nuances, but it still comes down to charting a destination and putting your paddle in the water, imho.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

― Aristotle, Metaphysics

No, that’s not what I intended. I was supporting your decision/opinion.

Sorry, my mistake. I hereby redact.

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Here is a video of Rick Klau giving a Google ventures Startup Lab workshop on OKRs, as mentioned in Niven and Lamorte’s book on OKRs.

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And an interview of John Doerr, venture capitalist and author of Measure What Matters.