Visual Goal-Setting Significantly Improves Your Outcomes

Nina Patkai
Feb 26 · 4 min read

I’m a big fan of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). But there’s one thing missing. Research [1] shows that bringing a visual component to goal-setting significantly improves your outcomes. That’s why we started to use “Visual OKRs”; adding images to each critical #OKR.

It’s very difficult to align teams around a common vision. Visual aids, doodles, diagrams, infographics, photos, images, drawings, cartoons, videos or storyboards are a great way of conveying a vision to teams. And to stakeholders.

Storyboard reference copies used on set during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back in 1979.
Storyboard reference copies used on set during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back in 1979.
Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash Image of storyboard reference copies used on set during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back in 1979. The original storyboards were created by artist Joe Johnston.

Ambitious Goal-Setting

“Visual OKRs” means adding a visual aid to an OKR. Visual aids supplement words with pictures, charts, graphs, or other visual information. They are important because they help teams understand and remember the ambitious goal. Increase interest. And act as reminders for stakeholders and team members.

In my teams, we add a visual aid to every critical OKR. It makes the whole process more fun and supports visual thinking.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Woman doodling in her note book
Woman doodling in her note book
Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

What are OKRs

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a method for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes [2]. Objectives are ambitious goals. And Key Results measure progress towards the Objective. OKRs method is a collaborative goal-setting tool used by companies, such as Google [3], to set ambitious goals with measurable results.

Photo of Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google’s birthplace, the garage at Menlo Park, 1999.
Photo of Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google’s birthplace, the garage at Menlo Park, 1999.
Doerr, 2017. “Measure what Matters”. Penguin Random House, UK. Page 5.

Sample “Visual OKR”

Let’s say your objective is to “score a goal in soccer”. In addition to defining your key results, your visual OKR could include an image of your team scoring a goal. A photo makes the objective more tangible, understandable, and rememberable for everyone.

Example Visual OKR of women playing soccer and scoring a goal
Example Visual OKR of women playing soccer and scoring a goal
Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

OKR Tools for Teams

In case your team works in the same space, you can print out images of our most ambitious OKRs and put them on the wall in your team room.

If you’re using Trello, or Confluence to track OKRs, you can attach an image to the most critical OKRs that you think would benefit from having a visual aid. Sometimes this is an architecture diagram, a doodle, a cartoon, or a photo of something that is relevant to the ambitious objective, which you are trying to achieve as a team.

Since we are a remote team, we use our own tool TeamSuccess: Free OKR tool for Teams 🛡 to create visual OKRs.

Vector image or people talking. Man says “images help me to remember everyone’s goals”
Vector image or people talking. Man says “images help me to remember everyone’s goals”
Source: https://teamsuccess.io

Stretch for Amazing

Your ambitious goals should be understandable and rememberable to everyone. So as you are writing down your OKRs, make sure to include a visual to go along with it.

Here’s a final example of a visual OKR, for the objective: “Build the best data science team in our New York office”. The photo shows a group of data scientists working together in an office.

Example visual OKR image, a data science team sitting and working by a table together.
Example visual OKR image, a data science team sitting and working by a table together.
Source: https://teamsuccess.io/ Example visual OKR, for the objective: “Build the best data science team in our New York office”.

Visual OKRs motivate our team to excel by doing more than we had thought possible.

Let me know what you think about visual OKRs? How does your team strive to achieve ambitious goals?

References

[1] Research done by the U.S. Department of Labor (OSHA Office of Training and Education) showed that “three days after an event, people retain 10% of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.” (Glebas 2009, “Directing the Story”, Elsevier Inc.)

[2] Google Ventures Startup Lab | GV partner Rick Klau covers the value of setting objectives and key results (OKRs) and how this has been done at Google since 1999. Video: https://youtu.be/mJB83EZtAjc

[3] Doerr, 2017. “Measure what Matters”. Penguin Random House, UK

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