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To achieve goals, you need to articulate them, track and measure progress and reassess regularly. All this can be done with one goal-setting strategy – Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), used by Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Cuban, Bono and other prominent business and philanthropy leaders. Our Objectives & Key Results (Part 2) presentation breaks down the nuts and bolts of the OKRs and were developed to be your loyal guides in ambitious goal-setting and meticulous, effective execution.

Slide highlights

Explain the difference between aspirational and operational OKRs. A committed OKR can be "delivering improvement to an infrastructure by a set date" and aspirational OKRs can be goals with unimaginable business outcomes.

Use this slide to go over specific OKRs for different departments or even teams and individuals within your organization. Remember that before setting OKRs across departments, you need to define your organization-wide OKRs first.

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OKRs can be used in any aspect of your life: from business management to fitness journeys, but what exactly do they do? John Doerr – a venture capitalist and the author of Measure What Matters,explains the purpose of OKR in three simple bullet points:

  • OKRs help break up big, audacious missions into actionable goals and milestones;
  • Objectives are the "what" (the goals);.
  • Key Results are the "how." They are the benchmarks by which you'll track progress toward completing your Objectives.

Expert advice

Larry Page

Alphabet CEO and Google co-founder, Larry Page, wrote in Doerr's Measure What Matters:"As much as I hate process, good ideas with great execution are how you make magic. And that's where OKRs come in, OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over. They've helped make our crazily bold mission of 'organizing the world's information' perhaps even achievable. They've kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered the most."[/test]

Bill Gates

Gates used OKRs to simultaneously run Microsoft and start the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The business guru admits that the OKR method helped him make difficult decisions. "There were two cases where I turned down a grant in the end because the goals weren't clear enough. The OKR system made me confident I was making the right call," he writes in the same Doerr's book. He also mentions that OKRs can help to distinguish between missions and goals."A mission is directional. An objective has a set of concrete steps that you're intentionally engaged in and actually trying to go far," Gates writes.

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Case study

"OMG: When TED adopted OKRs"

Companies that already have an established sense of their mission, sometimes, do not respond well to new management ideas. This is exactly what Rose Kuo, Senior Technical Project Manager at TED Conferences, had to deal with when she introduced OKRs to the TED team.

  • Objective – at the time, OKRs were perceived by the TED family as corporate and it was challenging to align them with the freethinking ethos of TED. To make it undeniably inspirational, OKRs needed to be "TEDified," Kuo tells What Matters organization, founded by John Doerr. The head of TED, Chris Anderson, recommended OMGs – Objectives and Measurable Goals, which Kuo defined as: "I will [state objective], as measured by [specify measurable goal]." Then, Kuo took the challenge to the next level and resolved it by putting to work a classic French novella, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, as a way of introducing OKRs to the team
  • Key result –using Saint-Exupéry's book, Kuo explained that the idea behind OMGs was not to set metrics and slavishly adhere to them, and that to fall short of an objective was ok as long as the goal was ambitious. "It's not about hitting numbers but about dreaming big," Kuo told the team.

As a result, TED's chief, Anderson, utilized OMGs to forge "the next version of TED." One of the greatest examples of OKRs implementation is TED's top-level objective of identifying and helping to scale climate solutions. This objective led to the partnership with the leader of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In other words, what started as a way to change TED's OKRs, led to an effort to save the planet. The Little Prince would be proud, Kuo says.

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