Setting the Right OKRs

tl;dr: When implementing strategy through an organization, clarifying achievement that matters is no easy feat. 

I often tell people that the two most difficult weeks of a quarter for me at Gtmhub are the last two.

It is in the last two weeks where I set my OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and then collaborate with nearly every member of my organization to help them set their OKRs in an aligned and thoughtful way.

This process is very difficult and it is taxing.

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things”- and we need to be effective. But what does “effective” mean?

The “bible,” if you will of the OKR world is John Doerr’s “ Measure What Matters’ and while many people focus on the “measurement,” the point of the book is “what matters.”

To be effective, then, is to focus on what matters most.

At the level of a CMO, one can have a “grand” vision of things like pipeline, brand awareness, brand perception, etc. As you move to other parts of a team, however, it’s not always abundantly clear what a junior copywriter’s OKRs should be to really “move the needle.”

That may be an extreme example, but I’ve found that helping people figure out from among hundreds of possible metrics that can be tracked, if not thousands, that really determining which ones are going to make a substantive impact on overall performance is challenging.

And frequently, I get it wrong.

One way I know I’ve gotten it wrong is if someone on the team has achieved 100% (or more) of any one of their Key Results too early in the quarter.

The prevailing wisdom in the OKR world is that, if you reach 100% of your target in an OKR culture, you probably didn’t aim high enough. If you blew it out of the water, particularly after only one month, it means that something was wrong.

That’s happened to me.

Secondly, if someone is sitting at 0% or negative results, it’s a good indication that the leader messed up. Sure, there are scenarios where people are incompetent or not a good role fit (also a leadership failure), but when I see super low numbers, I start to wonder “what was it about the Key Results selection process that led me to this point?”

Ultimately, OKRs are about creating a culture of learning, feedback, and continuous improvement, so you go forward from here and try to do better next time.

Learning to ask- as Mr. Toyoda did-  “Why?”  is something important…over and over again, can help “peel back the onion” on a proposed Key Result to help assess its fit and contribution to effectiveness.

Setting the Right OKRs is the objective. Do that and much of the battle can be won.

Easier said (written) than done.


Jeremey Epstein 
Chief Marketing Officer