Thursday 9 April 2020

Simple Template For Tracking OKRs Weekly And Quarterly

Objectives and Key Results (or more commonly knowns as OKRs) are a well-defined way to codify a company's strategy along with tracking progress towards the intended results. John Doerr introduced OKRs at Google to great effect and has since written an insightful book called Measure What Matters that goes into the OKR framework and how it's successfully being used at various companies.

The OKR process can become overly complex rife with over analysing the data behind the numbers, poorly quantifying the key results and/or poorly communicating the ongoing impact they're having. I have seen many companies abandon the initiative part way through a quarter or even after a few quarters of failed attempts. 

I've distilled the OKR process for product engineering teams and the wider company down to a simple tracker that can be used on a weekly basis. Below I will explain the "team tracker" along with some examples, followed by how each team's OKRs come together into a simple view across the company that anyone can understand.

Team OKR Tracker

The team OKR tracker is the starting point for the manager of each team. OKRs don't have a mandated length of time but I find doing them on a quarterly cadence allows enough time to make the upfront planning worth the time invested while still allowing for regular points throughout the year where strategic initiatives can be adjusted. Here is what a fresh version of the template looks like prior to a team's manager populating it with objectives, key results, owners and their associated weekly progress tracking:

There are several parts of the above sheet template which are worth digging into further:

  • Objective: This is what you want to accomplish. An objective should be aspirational, significant to the company, personally meaningful and ambitious. I'd recommend having no more than 5 but ideally 3 or less objectives per team (the old adage of less is more can't be said enough when setting objectives).
  • Key Result: This is how you will track the achievement of the objective. Key results should be easily measurable and limited in number. This is how the company measures progress towards its objectives while remaining flexible on the exact tactics to implement.
  • Owner: There should be a single owner for any given key result who is responsible for driving its success. In a product team this is often the CTO, Head of Product/Engineering/Design, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Tech Lead, etc.
  • Weekly Percentage Tracking: Each week throughout the quarter the owners of the OKRs should get together to discuss the progress of each one based on the percentage in the spreadsheet. Similar to a daily standup within a product team, any blockers or impediments should be raised and decisions made to resolve them. 
  • Final: This is simply the final result of each OKR at the end of the quarter. Note that sometimes it may take a week or two in order to determine the steady state of actual metrics associated with a given OKR (e.g. waiting for A/B test results for a feature deployed on the last day of the quarter).
  • Forecast: This should be regularly discussed and re-forecasted if necessary to get an accurate picture of where the progress toward an OKR might end up at the end of a quarter. This is obviously hard to achieve with complete certainty but even when accounting for the usual margin of error, it's still a valuable way to indicate to everyone which OKRs are on track and which ones are struggling.
  • Notes: Along with updating the weekly percentage of the OKRs, each owner can add a few notes about what is happening. This can be particularly valuable when a key result is not moving (aka still at 0%) but the team is making good progress with the build which will be deployed in the future and which will subsequently increase the key result pecentage.
  • Averages: This is simply an average across all the OKRs for the team. If teams are aiming for the usual ~70% achievement rate (aka the OKRs taken together were ambitious but not impossible) this section highlights how the team is tracking on that overall goal.

Team OKR Tracker Examples

The team OKR tracker below has been populated with examples of potential objectives, key results, owners and associated weekly progress tracking for a fictional product engineering team:

Company "Roll Up" OKR Tracker

Each team within the company (e.g. Sales, Product, Marketing, People, etc) has their own OKR tracking sheet which is then "rolled up" into an overall high-level view. This view shows progress across the company against the previously-defined OKRs. It is able to give the executive team, the board and/or the rest of the company (via a monthly all hands meeting or weekly email) a simple view of which teams are doing well and which teams may need some additional help or resources in order to achieve their goals before the OKR period comes to an end.

Google Sheet Template

I've provided the OKR tracker as a Google Sheet which can be easily copied and used within your own company: