A cheat sheet for setting OKRs


Midway through the year is an excellent time to revisit goals, and potentially rejigger goal-setting.  I’m a big fan of the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework, as a way to help product teams focus on outcomes instead of outputs.  

Setting OKRs involves choosing objectives for your product (why you’re building the things you’re building), and key results for each objective (what you measure to see if it’s working).  Coming up with what to measure can be tricky, especially the first time, so I’ve been collecting good ideas from books, conferences, and teams I’ve worked with.  The result is the following index of OKR archetypes.  They come in a couple of flavors: lagging indicators, leading indicators, and pre-launch indicators.

Lagging indicators

Lagging indicators are those tied most closely to the business’ success: things like revenue and bookings.  Every product team should keep them in mind, but they usually manifest too slowly to be the only outcome you track.  They make good long term goals, and are useful for mature products.

lagging indicators

Leading indicators

Leading indicators are easier to measure in real-time, and are good for new or rapidly evolving products.  Typically, developing sophisticated product analytics is the best way to keep an eye on these faster-moving metrics.  It can be useful to set up a dashboard for your OKRs to watch them daily or weekly.

leading indicators

Pre-launch indicators

Pre-launch indicators help product teams identify whether they’re on the right track, even before they technically have a product in the market.  These including things like results or marketing efforts, or results from customer testing with prototypes.

pre-launch indicators

A few reminders on OKRs

Typically, a product team would set 3 objectives per quarter, with 2-3 key results for each objective.  These are meant to be ambitious goals, not shoo-ins; on an ongoing basis, teams should achieve about 70% of them.  For more background on how OKRs work and how to set them, check out this post.

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