Canvas OKR

How to write good objectives  

How to write a good objective

Objectives & Key Results is a collaborative goal-setting framework which was originally invented at Intel by Andrew Grove. In this article I focus on the O in the framework: The Objective. I share with you a definition, five quality criteria and a few tips how to write good objectives (OKR). 

What is a good objective (OKR)?

Within the OKR framework we define the objectives as the goals we want to reach as an organization, a team and as an individual. This means there are some cluster of goals like financial, technology, product, culture, or individual goals. Some of them are long-term goals or even visionary, some that you strive for to achieve in 5 years. On a company level you have a combination of long-term, mid-term and short-term goals. 

The objective is a goal and describes a desirable target state, you want to achieve in the next three months. It is a challenging and qualitive (not measurable) goal, that focus on customer value.  

Checklist for writing good objectives  

There is no fixed structure or template how to write a good objective. Whatever works for a team or an organization works, right? Instead of having fixed rules five criteria help to improve your objectives: 

  • Customer Value: How does the customer benefit of the objective? 
  • Achievement: Does the objective describe a desirable future state for the customer?  
  • Focus: Does the objective help to set a focus or is it too generic
  • Alignment: Does the objective motivates people to work on it?  
  • Balanced: Is it stretched, ambitious and realizable in the next cycle?  

If teams struggle to formulate their objectives, I help them with some examples or this “cloze” to write good objectives:  

We create  <Achievement/ Future State> for   <Customer>   because <Benefit>.

We care about quality but not at all costs.  

Yes, well-written objectives are important. Nevertheless, I saw teams spending hours in fighting about a specific word. Let us not forget it is a collaborative goal-setting approach and not a competition of the best formulated objective. It helps an organization focus on a common vision, to stay on track and to keep people motivated. Therefore, I invite the specific team to deep dive into some examples and to explore the variety of objectives. Furthermore, I convince them to write down an objective. A bad objective is better than no one. We have at least the chance to improve it. To write good objectives needs some practice. Nevertheless, practice needs some action. 

Canvas for writing good objectives  

You are new with Objectives & Key Results (OKR)? You would like to draft your objectives and need some ideas? 
Check out my OKR Canvas: Draft your objective.