OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a powerful communication tool that defines the path to success. They clarify what needs to be accomplished to reach an objective and how far the team needs to stretch their efforts. OKRs can be categorized into committed, aspirational, and learning.
Committed OKRs are stretch goals that the team is expected to achieve within the cycle fully. All Key Results must be met on time and in full. These OKRs are essential for an organization’s success and health. However, even committed OKRs should have an element of stretch, as achieving success should not be guaranteed.
Committed OKR Example: Tech Startup Launch
- Objective (O): Successfully launch our new mobile app.
- KR1: Achieve 50,000 app downloads within the first month.
- KR2: Maintain an average user rating of at least 4.5 stars.
- KR3: Onboard at least 1,000 active users to premium subscription plans.
Aspirational OKRs set a high bar for success, exceeding a team’s current capabilities. While many aspirational OKRs may not be fully achieved, they push teams to think bigger and strive for ambitious outcomes. Aspirational OKRs should remain on the list until completed. Success on aspirational OKRs might be around 70%, and meaningful progress is acceptable.
Aspirational OKR Example: Environmental Conservation Organization
- O: Become a leader in reducing plastic waste in our community.
- KR1: Reduce single-use plastic consumption by 30% in local schools.
- KR2: Organize a city-wide plastic cleanup event involving 1,000 volunteers.
- KR3: Collaborate with local businesses to replace plastic packaging with sustainable alternatives for at least 20 products.
Learning OKRs are used when the outcome is uncertain or when the organization is seeking proof of concept. These OKRs focus on gathering insights and data to inform future strategies. They are about learning what works and what doesn’t, rather than achieving a specific outcome. Learning OKRs are particularly valuable for startups and projects in experimental stages.
Learning OKR Example: E-commerce Fashion Startup
- O: Discover the most effective social media platform for customer engagement.
- KR1: Run A/B tests on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to determine which platform generates the highest click-through rates.
- KR2: Analyze the engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares) for posts on each platform to identify trends.
- KR3: Conduct surveys among customers to understand their preferred social media platform for discovering new fashion trends.
Defining Success Upfront
When setting OKRs, it’s important to categorize them as committed, aspirational, or learning from the beginning. This avoids confusion and sets clear expectations for the team. Misclassifying OKRs mid-cycle can lead to either a sense of underperformance or unrealistic pressure, affecting team dynamics.
By understanding and utilizing these three types of OKRs, organizations can align their teams, set appropriate goals, and encourage a culture of growth, learning, and achievement. Whether the focus is on guaranteed success, ambitious targets, or gaining insights, OKRs provide a structured framework to drive progress.