In Silicon Valley, home to many of the world's fastest-growing companies, objectives and key results (also known as OKRs) have become something of an obsession. Publicly traded giants -- including Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Salesforce -- and many of the hottest startups follow this business management system.

It's never too soon -- or too late -- to begin using them. At startups, you can't waste time or money, and focus is paramount. Google started working with OKRs when it was only a year old.

We introduced OKRs at Tile soon after we began shipping our first product. Until that point we were still a small team -- about ten people -- and it was obvious what we needed to do to get our first product to market.

But as the team started to grow, it became harder to communicate what the company needed to do next and in what priority order. OKRs kept us all pointed in the same direction.

Every company that uses OKRs does so a little differently. Over time, my company has made adjustments to fit our goals, business needs, and cycles.

Here are three pieces of advice when implementing OKRs into your business:

1. Adjust to a new mindset.

Most people want to be great at their jobs, and feeling like they are being "graded" can cause stress. That's why it's so important to help your team understand this is not a performance review. Some employees may have a hard time adjusting at first, but eventually, they'll get more comfortable with it.

2. Make transparency key.

At Tile, every employee can see everyone else's OKRs -- including mine. This is especially valuable when people work across teams.

Imagine you're an engineer coding at your desk. Someone walks over from customer service and says they have a new idea for the app. It sounds cool, but you're busy working on a problem.

Before OKRs, you might have been torn: You want to help your colleague, but you're on a deadline. In this new system, your colleague can pull up your OKRs from the shared company intranet before coming to see you.

They can see you're working to make the app faster -- a high-priority OKR. They realize their new feature isn't as critical, so they save it for another time.

3. Include measurable objectives.

Key results should be measurable, have a specific number attached to them, and be objective, not subjective. For example: Instead of saying you want to "Improve the website," your objective would be "Drive more traffic to the website." Your key results for that objective might be something like: "Get five top-tier media placements" and "Partner with three companies to be included in their next email newsletter."

Workplace stress can often be traced back to miscommunication, mismatched expectations, being pulled in too many directions, or not feeling like you're doing something meaningful. OKRs are an objective way to give people a clear direction.

They reduce bias because everything can be measured. Most importantly, they help each employee see a direct line between the goals of the company and the job they do every day.

At my company, we think about OKRs as "stretch" goals. We know we've got the right balance when it feels uncomfortable but we're still excited to get after it. You've got to set big goals to accomplish big things.

Published on: Aug 17, 2017
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