To OKR, Or Not To OKR~That Is The Question

Setting goals is easy. Understanding and tracking your progress around those goals can be a bit more of a challenge.

Thats where OKRs come into play.

Definition of OKRs

OKR stands for Objective Key Results. The idea of OKRs is to create a framework to define and track set objectives to ultimately reach your goals.

Objective: One sentence that simply explains the outcome of the goal and what you’re trying to accomplish. Ex: Increase brand recognition and awareness

Key Result: This should be a measurable task/milestone you can accomplish to help you determine if you’re moving closer to achieving your desired outcome

OKR FORMULA: I will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results)

Check out this example of an OKR


Improve Customer Satisfaction rate at Galvanize SF

Key Results:

-Achieve an NPS Goal of 70+ for SF Campus

-Follow up with all NPS survey recipients within 3 days, to encourage them to complete survey and ensure positive sentiment with Galvanize

-Communicate one new aspect of the Galvanize Experience to students and members every week in the community weekly email or new slack channel

Instead of upper management creating goals as a top down approach, OKRs are created by each individual team member and shared company-wide to increase transparency within the organization.

This helps to not only drive creative ideas from the ground-up but, also gain buy-in from each member of the organization (regardless of team hierarchy).

Although OKRs originated at Intel, they were made more popular as companies like Google, Airbnb, LinkedIn, and Twitter adopted them. “We needed to set stretch goals that seemed impossible to fully achieve,” says Don Dodge of Google and OKRs was just the tool to help them achieve that.

OKRs are typically set at the beginning of the quarter. At the end of the quarter you grade yourself to determine how close you came to achieving your set goal(s).

The idea is not to reach 100%in each of your goals, but rather obtain around 80% achievement. A 40% or less score means you set too high of a goal, and/or perhaps need to reassess for next quarter in order to set a more attainable goal. This is called setting a “stretch” goal which forces you to avoid goals that are “too obtainable”.

So Why Set OKRs?

  • Create discipline and forces you to focus and prioritize on the most important goals at hand.
  • Improves communication within the organization by creating transparency and accountability. By allowing other team members to have access to your goals for the quarter it helps them filter asks that are more aligned with your set goals.
  • OKRs allow you to measure the goals you set to determine if you can actually reach them

Best Practices To Keep In Mind

  • Get comfortable with setting OKRs that are slightly out of reach and feel a little uncomfortable.
  • Key Results always include numbers so you can measure to what percentage you were able to reach that success.
  • Think of Key Results as milestones that become increasingly more difficult as you work through each one.
  • OKRs are usually set for a 3 month period (or one quarter).

If you’re still itching to know more about OKRs watch this video from Google Ventures Startup Lab GV partner Rick Klau.

Google has been able to implement OKRs within its organization which has resulted in the roll-out of products such as Gmail.

But do OKRs make sense for much smaller organizations such as startups to implement?

We decided to find out.

Galvanize teamed up with GFE, Google for Entrepreneurs to create a 12-week program designed to accelerate the growth of high-potential startups at Galvanize.

We selected four startups from Galvanize SF and paired them with Google mentors whose expertise was aligned in the areas of identified strategic priorities for the startups.

  • Mentor Kickoff — We launched the program with an event at Galvanize in SF to introduce all of the selected startups, and connect them in person with their Google mentor team.
  • 12-week mentorship — Bi-monthly mentor sessions (online or in person) focused on driving progress on an OKR set by each particular startup.
  • Closing Roundtable — An in person event to conclude the program, where each startups shared the results on their business from the program.

Prior to the program the founders had not implemented OKRs as part of their strategy and using OKRs was a new concept to some of them.

However the results were astonishing!

The Results

Galvanize Member Patrick Murray, founder of Noson, a service that makes airport parking simple — unlocked a new membership pricing model for his business.

“The Galvanize & GFE Mentorship Program far exceeded my expectations. With the help of my mentors I was able to deeply dig into my analytics and product offering. With this knowledge and further mentorship, I was able to increase my profits 200%.” — Patrick, Noson

Patrick worked closely with his Google Mentor Laurie Kyser to define OKRs for Noson. They discussed his business and growth strategy as well as what Patrick wanted to accomplish that year by doing a deep dive into his business to determine how Noson could be more efficient.

They decided to set one overarching OKR and two sub OKRs which were very qualitative driven.

By focusing on the main OKR they were able to iterate and determine the (LTV) Lifetime Value of their customer to ultimately increase growth by 200%.

“I think OKRs are great since you decide what you want to accomplish and it’s not so far out of reach because you know what you’re capable of doing.” Laurie Kyser Sr. Analytical Lead, Google


If you’re still not a fan of OKRs and setting stretch goals, try to think of it as a system to help keep your goals in check.

Consider this: Key Results are the building blocks of the system you create to reach your goal. Whether its 2 or 3 key results, the point is to create a process that enables you to measure your goals as it relates to the bigger picture.

“If you want to truly change the trajectory of your life, ditch the goals and create systems instead.”

And that is exactly what OKRs help you focus on — not the goal itself, but the tasks leading up to making that goal a reality.

What are your Q4 OKRs? Now’s the perfect time to set them.

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