Become a better boss for yourself by using the OKR framework

What do Google, Amazon, and Spotify have in common? One aspect that unifies these successful companies is that they all use OKRs to guide their business forward. Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a goal-setting framework which encourages to set ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs have traditionally been helpful for company leaders trying to create alignment between teams and motivate employees to move toward a unified direction. However, the framework functions well also for freelancers: OKRs can give entrepreneurs some of the structure they would normally have in an office. In other words, OKRs can help you become a better boss for yourself. Take a look at this article to learn how.

Objectives guide you toward success

Defining your objectives is the first step in the OKR framework. Objectives are concrete, meaningful, and action-oriented goals that you aim to achieve. These goals should be communicated clearly in the form of compact, one-sentence remarks. At their best, objectives in the OKR framework should both challenge and inspire you to do your very best. An example of an OKR objective could be the following:

“Fix the website for the vast majority of consumers.”

Defining strategic objectives in single sentences might sometimes feel challenging. However, it is actually the most important step when using the OKR framework. Devoting time and effort in mapping your objectives is worthwhile as well-defined objectives guide you to the right strategic direction, develop alignment within different parts of your business, and create meaning to your work. As objectives are tightly tied with strategy, they usually remain the same for a year or even longer.

Key results give you concrete action points

After you have identified your objectives, you need to outline how you plan to attain them. Hence, the second step in the OKR framework is to define supporting key results for each objective. Key results are a set of 3 to 5 metrics that measure your progress towards the chosen objective. Effective key results are specific, time-bound and challenging, while also being realistic. Most importantly, they should be measurable because at the end of every OKR cycle, key results are meant to be graded to see how well the objectives have been reached. While objectives are more stable, key results evolve and change as the work progresses.

In our example objective, we wanted to fix the website for most customers. Good key and measurable results related to this objective could be:

“7 out of 10 people able to get through.” “1 second response time.” "1% error rate.”

Review progress and learn by doing

It is important to maintain a frequent record of your progress also during the OKR cycle. How are the trackable key results taking you toward your objectives? Ideally, you would perform a review once per week to keep track of your progress toward your main objectives. There are a variety of technologies to help you with this, but for smaller businesses a Google Sheet or something similar is good enough. At Thriv, we like to use Notion when tracking our OKRs.

When performing your weekly check-up you see that everything is working well and you are making clear progress, keep on the good work. Day by day, you are getting one step closer to where you want to be. And that if something is a pretty nice feeling. Don’t be afraid of over-delivering: if you reach the goals at some point during the OKR cycle, feel free to go beyond. Not only will you exceed your own expectations, but probably also those of your clients.

However, sometimes you might realise that the goals you have set are not serving you as well as you initially had thought. It is counterproductive to cling to goals that are not relevant any longer. In the end, tracking something irrelevant will only make you hate the framework. Keep in mind that OKRs can be changed, edited or deleted during the quarter-long OKR cycle. However, these changes should not be made too easily: consider carefully why the objective or a specific key result is not optimal and which alternatives would help you to get forward. In the end, using OKRs for the first time is a lot about learning by doing.

Want to discuss your goals and aspirations in person before mapping your OKRs? We at Thriv are always ready to discuss all things career with our talents. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Anton Eloranta - COO

Anton Eloranta