The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology is a popular goal-setting process for a wide variety of organizations, from tech to nonprofits and everything in-between. It’s defined by outlining clear and effective parameters for setting objectives and identifying the key results that should stem from them. Objectives must be meaningful, audacious, and inspiring. Key results are specific and timebound, aggressive but realistic, and measurable and verifiable.
What makes OKRs so effective for a diverse set of organizations is its uncomplicated, widely applicable framework. It’s so simple that it can be done with a pen and paper if need be.
However, keeping OKRs on a notepad or a spreadsheet isn’t for everyone. Many businesses (especially large ones) need more organizational transparency and structure for their OKRs so teams and individual employees can see how their work connects to different initiatives and larger business goals. Ultimately, it helps people understand why their work matters.
To get that level of transparency at scale, you’ll need more than a spreadsheet. There are many paid tools on the market with OKR capabilities, and it can be hard to identify what works for your organization’s needs.
We identified three strong contenders that have great potential to scale with the growth of your business.
Ally.io is a well-known tool on the market for setting and tracking OKRs, and a number of Systematic community members have tried it in their own organizations and would recommend it to other Business Technology leaders.
G2 users spoke highly of the platform’s UI and transparent structure, some of its strongest features. Ally.io allows the entire organization to see each others’ OKRs, which helps different teams understand how their own goals fit within the wider organizational vision. It’s easy to view, update, and check in on goals, and you can even divide OKRs into sub-tasks and perform check-ins that connect back to the umbrella objective. This level of detail and ability to connect to Slack keeps OKRs top-of-mind, and teams report an overall improvement in their time management, productivity, and deadline accuracy.
If you’re looking for software that encourages transparency, provides granular features and flexibility, and integrates well with Slack, Ally.io may be worth looking into for your organization.
Named as one of the best collaboration and productivity tools on G2’s 2022 Best Software Awards, Gtmhub is a solid choice if you want a product built specifically for OKRs.
The OKR model itself is straightforward by design, to the point that it can be done on a word processor, spreadsheet, slide deck, or other free tool. But larger organizations need transparency and visibility of OKRs across teams, so the best tool of choice would be something that reflects the simplicity of the OKR methodology but has the infrastructure to make goals visible across a large organization.
The team behind Gtmhub understands this, and they built the tool to address the needs of organizations that have outgrown more simplistic OKR approaches while maintaining the simple and direct spirit of using OKRs as a North Star. Users praise the platform for its ease of use, its intuitive UI, and its ability to be customized to fit the needs of organizations of all sizes.
Plus it integrates with over 160 business applications, including Asana, Snowflake, Jira, and more.
If your organization is committed to OKRs for the long term and needs a tool that was built to serve the OKR framework, Gtmhub may end up being the right fit for your needs.
Another winner of the G2 2022 Best Software Awards, Lattice is a well-regarded HR tool that focuses on employee engagement, productivity, and growth. It has a variety of features to track and manage performance, employee growth and engagement, analytics, and compensation (the latter feature is forthcoming).
Among its strongest features are its OKR tools. It has a clean and uncomplicated UI that embodies the straightforward ethos behind the OKR methodology. It also integrates seamlessly with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Salesforce to keep track of how each employee’s OKRs are progressing. By meeting employees where they already spend the majority of their time, Lattice helps keep big goals at front of mind in everyone’s daily work.
What’s especially powerful about Lattice, though, is its transparency and ability to connect OKRs across departments and align teams on goals across the organization. It goes a long way in showing individual employees and their teams how their work connects to larger organizational goals. When people see how their work affects the company’s overall goals, it gives them a clearer picture of their purpose within the organization, which increases confidence and morale (and productivity by proxy).
For those looking for a highly transparent OKR tool to show their teams that their work matters, Lattice may be a solution for your organization.
So you have your OKR tool. Now what?
Whether you’re using a spreadsheet or slide deck to record OKRs or you’ve chosen a paid tool to scale with rapid growth, the way to ensure your OKRs are effective is to keep things simple. The fact that you can even do OKRs on a basic spreadsheet speaks to how elegant and accessible the methodology is. That level of flexibility means your basic goal-setting process can grow with your business, regardless of whether your business is a large, multinational company or just you and a laptop.
You probably know the basic guidance for setting effective OKRs (and if you don’t, you can read about it here). But there are other best practices to follow if you want to make sure you’re setting the right goals for your team.
4 objectives, 3-5 key results
These are the magic numbers for how many objectives and key results you should have for any given quarter. More than four objectives pulls your team in too many directions, and fewer may mean you’re not setting aggressive enough goals for growth.
Similarly, more than five key results will dilute focus, and fewer than three marginalizes any supporting tasks that help you achieve any key metrics.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
OKRs are meant to be collaborative. When you let your team set their own OKRs, then help them edit (if needed) to align with larger company goals, you’ll foster better ownership, accountability, and buy-in from the team as a whole.
Detach OKRs from compensation reviews
OKRs should be used as a framework to grow the business, not to measure performance. If your team knows that OKRs will play a part in their next performance review, it may create a level of anxiety that decreases morale and causes teams to set less ambitious goals.
Build visibility into the process
Regardless of which OKR solution you use, everyone’s OKRs should be visible across the organization. Making every teams’ goals accessible helps your team understand how their work affects the larger organization, which fosters greater institutional understanding, teamwork, and sense of purpose.
OKRs aren’t just about measurable, aggressive goals. One of the most powerful effects of implementing OKRs is creating an environment where everyone can easily see how their work is interconnected with the rest of the organization. You can’t achieve that without visibility.
Whether you’re going lo-fi or investing in a paid tool, the OKR model is a solid choice for goal-setting that will grow with your business.