"Objectives and Key Results" is a goal and work management system used by Google and other companies.1 It is related to an older approach, "management by objectives" (MBO) or "management by results" (MBR) that is associated with organizational theorist Peter Drucker.2

Quick History3

The venture capitalist John Doerr, who worked at Intel and invested in companies such as Google and Amazon, is said to have introduced introduced Google to OKR. He starts out with a simple formula:

I will X as measured by Y.

A goal, that is, has to say not what you will do but what you will achieve (objective) AND how you are going to measure/detect/demonstrate this achievement. Unless there is a concrete Y after “as measured by,” X is just an aspiration.

I will (Objective) as measured by (this set of Key Results).

Andy Grove, former Intel CEO, uses a journey metaphor4 suggesting that you have to ask two questions:

  1. Where do I want to go? Or where do I want to be at the end of the next work period?
  2. How will I pace myself to see if I am getting there?

The first answer is the objective and the second the key results (sometimes also called "milestones" in the journey metaphor).

How to Use

The purpose of OKRs is not to evaluate or assess or grade your work. It is, rather, to improve performance through focus and feedback and integrity and honesty and to promote ambition and audacity alongside accountability. "objective reflection" and breaking big goals into smaller subgoals .

OKRs are public within the organization.

Setting reachable (or slightly out of reach) objectives may involve the process of stepwise refinement whereby goals are specified at at general level, with