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How We Manage Our Company Goals Using OKRs

Stephanie Gonzaga
December 26, 2016
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At the beginning of a new quarter, the team behind TeamGantt contribute their individual Objectives and Key Results for the next three months.

If this is the first time you've heard of OKRs, Rick Klau's video explains how OKRs are created and implemented within a large and successful company like Google. For those who don't have time to watch the entire video, this introduction to OKRs by Google's reWork should suffice.

Objectives and Key Results basically equip you with tools that enable you and your team to envision, implement, and accomplish your company goals. The key is to back up your company goals—often characterized as ambitious, uncomfortable, risky—with measurable action steps that tracks progress.

You need to be able to plot out the points that will lead you to your goals, rather than simply listing down abstracts of what you would like to achieve in the next couple of months.

OKRs are a perfect fit for a product like TeamGantt where every single project detail is measurable. With our own OKRs, individual goals or objectives are listed as task groups and each key result is listed as tasks. We then use our Percent complete feature to measure progress.

At the end of the quarter, we can update our OKRs and leave comments about what we've achieved and what we've missed.

How do I introduce OKRs to the team?

OKRs have given the team concrete direction in making significant progress with our company goals. You can do the same for your own company, regardless of its size or age.

Google's guide to OKRs is a good resource to learn all that you can about OKRs and how they are created and implemented, but here's a summary of steps that you can take to introduce and get your organization ready for it:

  1. Discuss OKRs 101. Set up a session where you'd discuss what the history of OKRs, their definition and nature with regards to goal-setting, and how they can help the team accomplish new or backlogged goals.
  2. Give each of your team members a chance to ask questions about OKRs. This is an opportunity to clear the air and address skepticism regarding the method.
  3. Draft a list of key company objectives. Brainstorm with your team for at least three objectives that are ambitious and of greatest importance. These are the goals that all of your company's projects and resources will align with.
  4. Prioritize key results. Narrow down ideas and/or scrap out tasks or projects that will not lead you to your agreed objectives. Be as disciplined and rigid because this will determine the focus and amount of resources needed to accomplish your goals.
  5. Make your OKRs public. Every member of your organization should know what your company goals are, steps to be taken to meet these goals, and the metrics for success.
  6. Update the OKRs regularly. This is extremely important as this keeps everyone accountable and in charge of reporting progress and addressing concerns.

How do I write good OKRs?

Developing OKRs that set clear goals, measured by agreed upon results, can push teams to achieve great things and keep an organization focused on the most important priorities. Poorly written OKRs can create confusing strategy, undermine internal metrics, and cause teams to focus on maintaining the status quo. (source)

You and your team understand the value OKRs can bring to the table. How do you ensure that everyone's OKRs are clear, effective, and measurable? Here are tips to consider and to share with your teammates:

Tip #1: Keep your key results measurable. 

When writing OKRs, ask yourself the question: "How would I know how well I've met my objective?"

According to editor Niket Disai, key results are "numerically-based expressions of success or progress towards an objective." If you can't put a number on your key result, you lose clarity and direction towards your objectives.

For the marketing team, one of our objectives is to build a steady and consistent publishing schedule. To do this, one key result is to "Publish 12 blog posts at the end of Q4." Another key result for this type of objective is to "Capture 30,000 blog subscribers."

Tip #2: Don't settle with comfortable.

The nature of OKRs is that they're based on objectives that push the limits to accomplish great things. If the OKRs make you feel safe or comfortable, do not require extensive effort and top use of resources, then they need to be reworked.

To quote from Google, "The 'sweet spot' for an OKR grade is 60% – 70%; if someone consistently fully attains their objectives, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough and they need to think bigger."

Tip #3: Grade your key results.

Key results are plot points that will tell you if you've made progress in accomplishing your objectives. Google uses number grades to measure difficulty (o-1.o), but you can use different metrics to determine this.

For instance, Christina Wodtke of Eleganthack suggests rating each key result with a confidence level to see if you and your team are pushing the limits to achieve your objectives. A confidence level of 1, for example, would mean the key results are too difficult or impossible to achieve. A confidence level of 10 equates to "sandbagging" where teams are working without utilizing their resources.

Tip #4: Don't create too many. 

Limit your key results to a number that is manageable and that makes sense in relation to the objective being targeted. Start with 3-4 key results that clearly illustrates progress that will lead to accomplishing your objectives.

Tip #5: Gather feedback.

Whether you are new to OKRs or you've been using the philosophy regularly, it always helps to gather feedback from others working towards the same objectives.

Since OKRs are meant to be public, you're free to ask feedback that will help you fine tune your key results. At the end of the session, you may gain insight from other people's perspectives, and come up with even more effective OKRs to aim for.

Use OKRs to shorten the distance success.

After setting OKRs for the past two quarters, we've made progress on several of our objectives. Our official YouTube channel and blog have gone up in subscriber numbers, our editorial queue has been consistent, and we've recently rolled out our new pricing for new customers.

None of these things would have been possible or doable if the objectives and key results weren't concrete, sensible, and measurable. There is still much to be done, but it's a huge win to know that we've made serious progress this year.

Take this opportunity to create a couple of OKRs in preparation for 2017. With the resources provided in this blog post, you can see how these can make a difference to your goal-setting techniques.

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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