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The Secret Sauce to Effective Key Results

Updated: Sep 23

You need Key Results (KRs) that can be measured quantifiably (meaning, use numbers!) and leave no ambiguity about defining success.


๐Ÿ“ˆ What is an Effective Key Result?

An effective key result should be measurable and quantitative. There should be no ambiguity about whether or not you've achieved your Objective. Key Results are often measured quarterly and define what needs to be true to consider the quarter a success. Key Results are NOT tasks that need to be completed.

โŒ Example of a Poor Key Result

Pretend your Objective is "Attract more customers to our website". You might be tempted to list a Key Result like "Design and launch our new website." A new website is likely a significant accomplishment and would make your team feel highly productive. However, ask yourself this: What would wild success look like at the end of the quarter? Remembering that your Objective is to attract more customers to your website, you may need to design a new website. But what if you launched the website and no one visited it? While your team was productive, they were not ultimately successful. Defining a task as a Key Result leaves too much ambiguity about defining success.

โœ… Example of an Effective Key Result

Instead, let's create an effective Key Result that quantitatively measures if we will successfully meet our Objective. Our primary question becomes: Given our stated Objective, how will we measure success in the next 90 days? First, let's brainstorm some ways we could measure success toward our Objective:

  • 1000 new unique visitors visit our website

  • 100 new customers sign up for an account on our website

  • 500 potential customers subscribe to our online newsletter

These Key Results share something in common โ€“ they each have a number! And numbers can be measured!! Imagine if your team measured each of these Key Results in the quarter โ€“ the number of unique visitors to the site, the number of new customers that sign up for an account, and the number of potential customers that subscribe to the newsletter. If these results were achieved, our team could feel comfortable asserting they achieved their overall Objective of attracting new customers to the website.

Here is how those Key Results could be formally written:

  • Increase the total number of unique website visitors from 500 to 1,500

  • Increase new website customers from 100 to 200

  • Increase our newsletter subscribers from 100 to 600

Note how the Key Results clearly state the current and desired values. This detail allows the Key Results to easily be measured and tracked.

๐Ÿ˜ฌ Don't Worry About the How

In my experience, when crafting OKRs, leaders often jump too quickly into the details of how to accomplish the Objective. The art of goal setting and crafting effective key results is defining the what, not the how. Focus on what you want to be true at the end of the quarter. Clarify with your team what results you want them to accomplish. Then, empower your team to define the how for themselves.

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