OKR Methodology – PART 4 – Amount, Nature, Pairing KRs, Guarantees

(for context/preamble see Parts 1, 2, and 3)


Amount & Adding

On page.54 of said OKR book it states “an OKR can be modified or even scrapped at any point in its cycle. Sometimes the “right” KR’s surface weeks or months after an O is put into play.” This is concerning because it COULD lead to never having any consist OKRs and them changing every week all cycle long in the worst-case scenario and/or in a start-up phase of a business.

QUESTION#16 : What are your preferred protocols for allowing people to modify/delete an O or KR and who get’s to decide that?

QUESTION#17 : Is there anything scientifically superior about the common suggestion of 3-6 O’s and KR’s or is that simply from tradition and practical insights?

Objective/Quantitative or Subjective/Qualitative and Interchangeability

This topic is an interesting one and there’s plenty examples on both sides. The previously OKR mentioned book states:

  • pg.50 “O’s are the stuff of inspiration and far horizons. KR’s are the more earth bound and metric driven.”
  • pg.78 “OKRs make objective objective , in black and white”
  • pg.74 give’s the example “Objective = continue to build a world-class team”

QUESTION#18 : Do you have any strong opinions as to why particularly an O should be qualitative or quantitative? If you feel like it depends on context which specific scenarios do you feel would warrant an objective O vs an subjective O?

It is also often said that some O’s can become KR’s and visa versa:

  • Pg.110 at Intuit “I want us to focus on that O right now as a top-level O. When it no longer needs the extra attention, we’ll let it drift back down into a KR. It’s a dynamic system.”
  • Pg.274 “when a KR requires extra attention, elevate it into an O for one or more cycles”

This one seems odd particularly if you’re committed to the idea that O’s are inherently qualitative and KR’s are inherently quantitative. For example, if my O is subjectively/qualitatively articulated such as “establish Service X as the leader in it’s category” and one of it’s KR’s are objectively/quantitatively articulated as “win best-in-class award for 2018” and then someone decides to switch these two you now have a poorly written new KR by your own standard.

Furthermore, in a fully “Top-Down” dictation structure the only O that is truly qualitative is the highest level Company Objective because all the KR’s associated with it then become all subordinates O’s thus making all cascading O’s now quantitative not qualitative, because they are just a higher-up’s KR.

QUESTION#19 : If most people are suggesting the essence/nature of an O and KR are inherently different and serve fundamentally different purposes how can they be interchangeable or swapped back and forth without changing them all together?

Pairing KR’s

From my vantage point this is the most novel aspect (maybe I’m just behind the curve lol?) whereby said OKR book states:

  • Pg.274 “for balance and quality control, pair qualitative and quantitative key results”
  • Pg.53 “Looking back, Ford Motor Company didn’t lack objectives or key results but it’s goal-setting process was fatally flawed: ‘the specific, challenging goals were met (speed to market, fuel efficiency, and cost) at the expense of other important features that were not specified (safety, ethical behavior, and company reputation)’.”
  • Pg.53 “to safeguard quality while pushing for quantitative deliverables, one solution is to pair key results – to both effect and counter-effect.”

This could be interpreted in different ways. For example, if you have 4 total KR’s then 2 of them are actually what you DO want to happen and the other two are just there for damage control/quality assurance (what you DON’T want to happen). Alternatively, it could be said that each single KR is written in such a way to explain what you do want to happen and what you don’t want to happen in the same sentence. (ex: state KR’s using a “…without…” clause at the end of it to act as said damage control/quality assurance piece).

QUESTION#20 : How are people handling this specific topic and over time have you found it better to do quality assurance/damage control within the same KR or as a separate KR all together? This could have significant implications if you are grading the KR’s as percentages too.

Can/should KR’s Guarantee the Accomplishment of an O

On Pg.55 said OKR book it states “completion of all KR’s MUST result in attainment of the objective. If not, it’s not an OKR” yet on the same page the example is given:

  • Objective = win the Indy 500
    • KR = increase average lap speed by 2 percent
    • KR = test at wind tunnel ten times
    • KR = reduce average pit stop time by one second
    • KR = reduce pit stop errors by 50 percent
    • KR = practice pit stops one hour per day

You can complete 100% of these KR’s and it does NOT guarantee you complete the Objective. Similarly, pg.84 gives the example - “win the super bowl” – for an Objective yet you can accomplish every single cascaded O and KR down the flow chart for the Head Football Coach and STILL not win the super bowl.

QUESTION#21 : So how can we say that the total list of KR’s should must result in an O’s attainment when that clearly is not the case? Should our standard be that it absolutely must, or should we rephrase the idea to say “the competition of all KR’s should make the Objective very likely to happen”? What are your specific thoughts on this?


. . . see Part 5 HERE

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@Kaitie and/or @Alexis I secretly was hoping to know how/if the upcoming software OKR features in Asana would handle these things? :slight_smile: Does it organically solve for these issues or will there be options for people with different philosophies of OKRs?