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Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) train and empower companies to focus on the goals that matter most—at organizational and individual levels.
When set strategically, OKRs align teams cross-departmentally and top to bottom, establishing a shared vision for where the company is headed and how each member will contribute to that journey’s success.
At Crews & co., we believe OKRs are so important that we adapted the methodology John Doerr outlined in his book, Measure What Matters, and integrated the system into our comprehensive business operating system: the Growth Method.
But first, here’s a glimpse at why scoring OKRs is such a critical part of this high-impact methodology.
How OKR Scoring Promotes Progress
Traditional goals are typically evaluated with a pass/fail mentality—either you achieved them or you didn’t. As the methodology for getting you to achieve your goals, however, OKRs can and should be scored on a point system.
OKR scoring enables smarter goal-setting
Pass/fail evaluations leave no room for error—and no room for improvement, either. OKR grading (or “scoring,” as we call it) opens the door to evaluating progress instead of instituting an all or nothing mentality. When a goal falls short, scoring help start a conversation about why a team member missed the mark. Over time, teams get better at refining their OKRs and effectively guiding their people to consistently achieve success.
OKR scoring tracks teamwide momentum
Quarterly OKRs are scored quarterly, annual OKRs are scored annually, and so on. As you review and evaluate each new set of OKRs, you’ll begin to notice a pyramid effect, with each round supporting the next level of Objectives. Your annual Objectives lead to three-year Objectives, then to ten-year Objectives, and eventually to your North Star.
Everything is connected, and everything is aligned. And so are the people helping to bring your company’s goals to life.
OKR scoring drives improved outcomes
Teams that rely on pass/fail goals are inclined to aim lower to ensure they “pass.” OKRs, on the other hand, are meant to be ambitious. They’re meant to stretch and push teams and individuals to aim high. Someone who achieves 80% of an ambitious OKR may even accomplish more than someone who completes 100% of a safe goal.
For instance, in a pass/fail scenario, a sales representative may set a goal to make 75 outreach calls this quarter—a number they’re certain they’ll meet 100%. However, when that same sales rep operates within the more ambitious OKR methodology, they may push themselves with a quarterly Objective of 150 calls. Even 80% of a 150-call Objective is 120 calls—more than 100% of the safe goal!
Measure What Matters does provide some insight into scoring OKRs. We’ve adapted the principles found in the book into a simple 10-point scoring framework that helps teams get on the same page when evaluating their OKRs.
Our OKR scoring scale
Use these guidelines for scoring progress on OKRs:
Definition: Right priority; Exceeded expectations without heroics*
Definition: Right priority; Done
Definition: Right priority; Did not finish
Definition: Not the right priority
*Without heroics means the individual worked hard but not to the point of burnout. Burnout is never an indicator of sustainable success.
Scoring OKRs, step by step
The scoring process should take place with the same team that originally came together to set the OKRs. So a leadership team will regroup for OKR scoring, and so will a departmental team. Avoid bringing in outside parties to evaluate OKRs.
Step 1: Start with the first Objective. The owner of the overall Objective reads the Objective out loud to the team. As you’ll recall, every Objective has an owner, and each Key Result has an owner as well. The Objective owner may or may not be the same person who owns some or all of the Key Results.
Step 2: The Key Result owners each read their Key Results out loud. They score themselves on their progress from 1-10 according to the scoring scale.
Step 3: After reading all of the Key Results, the team averages the KR scores. Then, the Objective owner assigns a score to the Objective as a whole, also from 1-10. This score may match the average, but it doesn’t have to. The Objective owner’s goal is to assess how successfully the team advanced the Objective.
Step 4: Once all the Objectives and Key Results are read and scored, the team calculates the overall OKR average for the company Objectives.
Individual OKRs: Sometimes, an individual owns additional Objectives. Using a similar process, each individual Objective owner reads their own Objectives out loud and assigns them a score from 1-10. You can average the individual Objectives scores by person as well.
The Intricacies of OKR Scoring: Q&A
As you probably noticed on our scoring scale, OKR scoring can be subjective. A high score doesn’t necessarily indicate a high performer, nor does a low score indicate that someone didn’t work hard enough.
With OKRs, you must remember that 100% completion is not necessarily the goal. The point is to aim for excellence in a way that moves the Company Objective forward.
For OKRs to affect impactful, meaningful change within your organization, the entire team must engage in the OKRs process, learning to rigorously assess not only their own performance but also the quality of the priorities themselves.
Here are a few considerations every team member who uses OKRs should keep in mind:
How should you evaluate an OKR score?
Scoring OKRs requires individuals to assess more than the “done-ness” of a task. They must also honestly evaluate whether an Objective and its Key Results targeted the right priority. If an OKR is too far removed from the company’s big-picture priorities, it immediately loses value.
An OKR that targets the proper priority should score higher than one that missed the priority mark, even if its associated tasks are incomplete.
We consider a score of 8 to be an acceptable score because it indicates good prioritization as well as completion. Are there improvements to be made on an 8-level OKR? Absolutely! But room for improvement doesn’t in any way indicate failure.
While we’re on the subject of completion…
Is the OKR aspirational or committed?
To further refine your team’s priorities, you can identify OKRs as aspirational or committed.
Aspirational OKRsare actually the standard rather than the exception. OKRs are designed as stretch goals: ambitious Objectives or Key Results that may not be 100% attainable. The ambitious approach pushes the team to strive for excellence. OKRs can be presumed aspirational unless otherwise specified. This is the key reason that a score of 8 out of 10 is considered good enough in OKR scoring: 80% of a stretch goal is often better than 100% of a safe goal.
If an aspirational Objective or Key Result is not aspirational enough, its score may not deserve an 8, even if the task was performed well. Similarly, an exceedingly aspirational OKR that’s just shy of completion may deserve a higher-than-usual score because of the team accomplished in their efforts to get it done.
Committed OKRs are less common but sometimes necessary. If an Objective or Key Result must be 100% completed at the end of the designated time period, it should be designated as committed. A “committed” status should be reserved for Objectives that require ultimate effort and prioritization by everyone involved, even if it means relegating other priorities to the back burner.
A committed Objective or Key Result that’s completed on time may earn a score of 10. But it could also score lower if the quality is below average or if it required “heroics” to get it across the finish line. Committed Objectives should always, however, be completed. No exceptions.
Is the Objective, Key Result, or OKR done?
“Done” means different things to different people, so scoring should assess how well the job was done as well as the difficulty of the task. You’ll also discover that most people score themselves very differently than how they might score someone else—in good ways and bad. One individual may deserve a 10 but only self-score at an 8, while another may claim a 7, though they’ve performed at no more than a 4.
Is the Objective, Key Result, or OKR unfinished?
An unfinished task doesn’t necessarily result from poor performance, particularly when the individual or team in question is historically known for exceptional work.
When presenting an incomplete Key Result, the owner should identify whether they can reasonably complete it in the next two weeks—in which case, completing the Key Result becomes an immediate next step—or whether it’s delayed, blocked, or completely un-doable. If a top performer’s Key Result is nowhere close to completion, that warrants further investigation. If progress has stalled, consider whether the Objective or Key Result is simply poorly designed. Maybe it should be abandoned altogether!
The owner should also prepare to discuss their take on what went wrong.
Did they run out of time or bandwidth?
Were they unsure of how to proceed?
Did they face an internal or external blocker?
Were they lacking specific resources?
On the other hand, if the owner came very close to completing the Key Result, that may be a good indicator that the task targeted the right priority and was appropriately challenging! Discover what it will take to move the Key Result across the finish line—and whether those additional steps make sense. Unless the entire OKR is being shelved, you’ll need to define a new path forward.
When do you need to dig much, much deeper?
The more OKRs you score, the easier the process will become. In the meantime, prepare to investigate further whenever an OKR isn’t progressing as anticipated. You may need to peel back multiple layers of nuance to understand the source of the problem.
Do you have the right people in the right seats? Did you set the correct Objective? Were all the necessary resources available?
You may find that a Key Result is only incomplete because the owner is still waiting for a busy stakeholder’s approval. Unexpected disruptions like losing a major client or key supplier can also impact an OKR’s results.
In the early stages of adopting OKRs, many companies will notice that their Key Results are getting done, but the Objectives are still stalled. Or the Objective will be done, but the Key Results won’t have had any impact. This sort of dissonance is how you learn to set smarter OKRs that genuinely move the needle.
OKRs Track Progress toward Growth
Scoring OKRs is a critical part of the learning process because it reveals not only what is working but also what’s definitively not working.
Sometimes, there’s a clear relationship between an Objective and its Key Results. You know with certainty that these Key Results will lead to achieving that Objective.
Other times, putting an OKR on paper is more like placing a bet. You think the Key Results will deliver your Objective, but you simply don’t know. And sometimes, you get it wrong. Sometimes, the Key Results are ineffective. Sometimes, you realize the Objective wasn’t all that important after all.
There is good news, though! The more experienced you become with the OKR methodology, the better you’ll get at setting OKRS. You’ll grow more skilled at identifying your company’s top priorities and allocating the proper focus to seeing those priorities through to completion. The most experienced companies tend to set the fewest OKRs—usually 2 or 3 company priorities, max.
Smart scoring ensures OKRs that actually work
Correctly scoring OKRs keeps your entire team moving forward with the right priorities, consistent motivation, and a strong sense of purpose. With the ongoing accountability OKRs enable, you’ll see your entire company grow stronger and more synchronized.
Do OKRs take time to implement correctly? Yes.
Are they worth every minute? Absolutely—and then some.