One objective to rule them all; or how to kill it with OKRs

Posted by Ivan Osmak
on April 8, 2019

At the beginning of each quarter, the very first OKR I define for myself is a meta-objective: Kill it with OKRs.

Kill it with OKRs meta-objective
Kill it with OKRs meta-objective

I’ve shared this practice with numerous people, and many think that this is some dogfooding exercise – us being the OKR Platform vendor. But, no – it’s not that.

As a CEO, I think that my first and foremost responsibility is to enable the team to do great work and company to be successful. There is no better proxy for such a fuzzy idea than an OKR to make sure everyone kills it with their OKRs.

Dissecting the key results

While the objective is always to “Kill it with OKRs,” key results do change from time to time, depending on current challenges.

For Q2 2019, I have chosen the following key results:

Committed OKRs attainment at 100%

In Gtmhub we differentiate between committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs (we use tags to distinguish between those). Committed are the ones that absolutely have to happen (e.g., revenue target, growth target, etc.)

Aspirational OKRs are the ones where we would aim for the attainment of about 70%.

Overall attainment to 70%

The combined attainment of committed and aspirational OKRs is to reach 70%. Here we do know that some of the aspirational OKRs won’t make it to 70%, but on the other hand, many – if not all – of committed OKRs will be at 100%.

Everyone on the team has an OKR

Ensuring that everyone has OKRs (which is not always easy, see who should own OKRs) gives this OKR credibility. Killing it with OKRs would be very simple if only one or two people own objectives. This key result is what we call a constraint key result.

There are at least 100 KRs we are tracking

Similar to the one where everyone needs to own an OKR, we also want to make sure on average we have enough key results that we are tracking. I usually set this number by multiplying the number of people with three.

Practical implications of such OKR

The first time I set this OKR for myself, I’ll admit it was somewhat of an experiment. However, in the very first quarter, it became apparent that this is the mother of all objectives.

Here is what happens when I define this OKR:

  • I became perfectly aligned with the rest of the company; my objective was for everyone to hit their goals
  • My attitude quickly changed from demanding to supporting. When I see someone struggle with their objective, this is directly affecting my OKR. My first reaction now is to see how can I help.
  • A common problem with OKRs is people having too many of them. At the beginning of the quarter, ambition is high, which often leads to many abandoned OKRs (“didn’t have time to focus on this”). As abandoned OKRs negatively influence my goal, I now proactively question every objective and try to kill everything non-essential. Focus.
  • It is the single best predictor of success. If I achieve my objective, I know without going into details, that as a company we have killed it that quarter

Why set it every quarter?

There area few reasons why I set this same OKR every quarter:

First, being successful as a company is the goal that we have every single quarter, albeit the actual definition of success changes.

Second, we have about five new colleagues every quarter, so in a way – emphasizing OKRs is always relevant to someone.

Third, Gtmhub is completely managed through OKRs. We are spread over four different offices and across ten timezones. Ensuring that we run a healthy OKRs process is fundamental for our survival and growth.

Summary

To come up with meaningful and impactful objectives, one always has to do some introspection and have a clear understanding of the purpose.

As a CEO, my purpose is to enable, empower and support the team – because the team’s success will directly translate into the company’s success.

We all have these periods when we feel like working on the product, writing, selling, recruiting or whatever is the most interesting at the moment. However, most of the time, our focus should be on the ugly, hairy areas which are not going well, and it is this OKR which always provides me with much needed laser focus.