Crafting Effective OKRs: Lessons from Poetry and the Importance of Understanding Key Terms

While explaining the fundamentals of poetry may seem straightforward, crafting good poetry requires extensive practice and experimentation. It’s a process of writing numerous poems and constantly refining them to achieve a polished piece. As someone who is not a poet, I can only imagine how challenging and rewarding this journey must be. Similarly, my experience with OKRs has been a journey of discovery and experimentation. Despite reading numerous books and understanding the principles of the OKR framework, I still struggle to write effective OKRs that meet the criteria of specificity, measurability, achievability, relevance, and timeliness. As a coach, I have also encountered many OKRs that don’t meet these criteria, but I’m often unable to articulate why. It’s a delicate balance between being rigorous and creative, and finding a way to express the goals of an organisation in a way that is inspiring and actionable. Overall, I believe that crafting effective OKRs requires a willingness to learn from both successes and failures, and to continually refine one’s approach.

Similarly, my experience with OKRs has been both enlightening and frustrating. On the one hand, I have read the books and know the rules of the OKR framework. I understand that the objective should be SMART. I know that the key results should be quantifiable, aligned, and ambitious. However, when it comes to actually writing the OKRs, I often struggle to come up with something that meets these criteria. I find myself brainstorming a lot of “tat,” or irrelevant and poorly defined objectives.

As a coach, I have also encountered many OKRs that are similarly flawed, but I cannot always articulate why they are wrong. It is a challenge to balance the need for specificity and rigor with the need for creativity and innovation. One must find a way to articulate the goals of the organisation in a way that is both compelling and actionable. This requires a deep understanding of the organisation’s culture, strategy, and priorities, as well as an ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Overall, I believe that the process of setting and achieving OKRs is a journey that requires persistence, patience, and a willingness to learn from both success and failure.

One aspect of OKRs that I recently came across is the importance of understanding the distinctions between various terms such as Vision, Values, Value Objectives, Goals, Outcomes, and Output. These terms represent different dimensions or lenses through which we view our overall model.

  • Vision: The aspirational view of where the enterprise wants to be in the future.
  • Values: The guiding principles that define how the enterprise wants to behave and operate.
  • Value: The tangible and intangible benefits that the enterprise aims to deliver to its customers or stakeholders.
  • Output: The end result or deliverable of the enterprise’s activities or processes.
  • Outcomes: The specific steps or milestones that the enterprise needs to achieve to realise its desired value.
  • Objectives: The specific, measurable, and time-bound targets that the enterprise sets to achieve its outcomes.
  • Goals: Essentially the same as objectives, but typically broader in scope and longer-term in nature.

When setting OKRs, it is crucial to understand the differences between all these terms and how they relate to each other. While each term represents a distinct dimension of our overall model, OKRs specifically focus on Objectives and Goals. I regularly review OKRs that are really just an expression of Values, or Vision or Output. By understanding the nuances of each term and their relationship to OKRs, we can develop a more comprehensive and coherent strategy that aligns with our organisation’s culture, values, and priorities. We can articulate and set ambitious goals and measure our progress towards achieving them. Ultimately, the OKR framework provides a powerful tool for organisations and individuals to set and achieve measurable, ambitious, and aligned objectives (or goals