What Are OKRs? How Can I Use Them to Increase Remote Work Efficiency?

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Remote work is the new normal. Enough said.

If you’re joining the remote work revolution, it’s a good idea to center your work around objectives. Working on an hourly basis has become an outdated method. Now, it’s not about how long you work; it’s about the work you complete and the results you drive. 

Taking concrete action and measuring task completion are two pillars of objective and results-based remote work.

OKRs Are The Key to Successful Remote Work. 

Created by Intel’s Andrew Grove, this method was developed in the late seventies and early eighties. It was later popularized when John Doerr (who formerly worked at Intel) recommended implementing this method at Google. Later, he discussed the strategy in his 2017 book, “Measure What Matters.”

What Are OKRs?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. They serve as a roadmap to achieving your objective. We’d also like to add another vital component of every OKR: tasks.

  1. O (Objective) = the objective you want to achieve.
  2. KRs (Key Results) = how you’ll measure the milestones of the objectives.
  3. Tasks = what you’ll do to achieve these milestones and ultimately the objective.

You’ve probably heard of using SMART goals to achieve objectives. SMART goals are:  

  • Specific, 
  • Measurable, 
  • Achievable,
  • Relevant, 
  • And Time-Bound 

While focusing enough on a specific action or task is advisable, as an objective, this approach looks more like a list of tasks than an aspirational goal. When you define the potential objective using the SMART goal approach, you create parameters and a clear framework for it. However, you run the risk of limiting yourself and preventing yourself from making truly impactful changes.

Using the OKR method, KRs are similar to SMART goals, while the overall objective is broader, more challenging, and aspirational.

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How can I implement the OKR method?

Ideally OKRs operate like a chain reaction within a company. The objectives are more general and act as common goals while KRs tend to be more individualized or assigned to specific teams. 

Thes OKRs can be applied in two situations: one where the leadership team has specific objectives, and managers establish their own objectives that are derived from them. Or one where a team shares an overall objective but then every team member has a different KR to achieve this objective.  

The steps to implement OKRs in these situations are: 

  1. Define your objectives and KRs.
  2. Turn those OKRs into concrete plans and projects. This tends to be pretty simple: every KR should look like a project in and of itself.  
  3. The key definition: break down all the tasks and activities of the project in detail that you’ll need to do to achieve your KR.

So always focus on the action: objectives, projects, tasks. 

Pro tip: using a task board is the easiest way to do this. A task board is a set of tools or platforms that help you organize your work into tasks and projects

How Do I Write OKRs Correctly?

The secret is to take a bottom-up approach, for example “We’re going to do THIS task to achieve this ESTABLISHED KR because we have to achieve OUR objective”.

Let’s try an example:

  • The objective is “to achieve our objectives more efficiently.”  
  • The KR can “improve the achievement rates and time it takes to achieve the objectives by 20% during the next month by applying the OKRs methodology.” 
  • The tasks could be:
    • Learn how to define and write out OKRs.
    • Make a method implementation plan.
    • Communicate the plan with my team and oversee its implementation.
    • Execute the plan.
    • Evaluate the results.

So the OKR would be written as, “We’re going to learn about, plan, communicate, execute, and measure the OKR method (these are the TASKS) to improve the rate of achieving objectives by 20% next month, applying this method (These are the KRs) therefore being more efficient at work (this is our OBJECTIVE.)

We’ll define the plan top down: objective, key results, tasks then implement the plan from bottom up: tasks, key results, objectives.

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What deadlines are recommended for establishing OKRs?

Generally KRs are too big to take on all at once. They tend to be more projects than individual tasks.  That’s why it’s a good idea to divide the KR into smaller chunks. 

Every task should be assigned to a specific person and have a well-established deadline. This may seem obvious, but achieving these tasks in this order is the best way to achieve your objective. Your objective is the sum of all the tasks being done properly. That’s why it’s imperative to know who is doing which task and when they’re completing it. 

People tend to set a recurring time to define and measure OKRs. Generally this is done once a quarter, or every three months. It could be less, but that might seem like too little time to achieve truly groundbreaking goals. Not giving people enough time also runs the risk of setting less ambitious goals. You could also give much more time, but there’s also the risk of the goal taking too long to achieve (especially if the team can’t achieve the KR.)

We recommend that you conduct a monthly check-in on how the tasks are going and how long it takes to achieve each KR. At the end of the defined period, conduct a self-evaluation and check-in with your manager or team leader about the scope of the results and finishing the necessary tasks.  

A few more tips for creating and achieving OKRs:

  • Don’t be afraid to add remote and freelance talent to your team. They’ll bring diversity, new perspectives, and they’re very likely to save your company time and money. (Bonus tip: Workana Enterprise can help you assemble a successful and reliable remote work team.) 
  • Define an ambitious and aspirational objective that results in effecting change. 
  • KRs have to be concrete and measurable with an established deadline, and a description of how the task will help you get closer to achieving your objective.
  • Tasks are activities that you have to complete to achieve your KRs. Each of them has to have a designation, date, and a description. 
  • The tasks don’t matter when you’re establishing your OKRs. Establish your objective and the corresponding Key Results before you break down your OKRs into tasks.
  • Set a deadline for the OKRrs with periodic assessments and self-evaluation at the end of the time period.
  • OKRs have to be a tool for achieving objectives!

Now it’s time to write yours:

  • What change do you want to effect? 
  • How will you measure it, and how much time will it take you? 
  • What tasks do you need to do to make it happen?

Remember: objective, projects, tasks. Then tasks, projects, objectives.

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** Article written by Bata Casaccia, CMO at Workana

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