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Writing Good Objectives

Sure Köse Ulutaş
by Sure Köse Ulutaş


How Easy Is It to Write OKR?

In this post of the OKR blog series, we want to share with you our experiences in writing good objectives, which we learned from our experiences writing OKR with many different teams.

Before you start writing your purpose, start by asking:

“What do you want to make an impact on?”

"What are your priorities as a team?"

"Which of these priorities will bring you the greatest benefit?"

A well-written objective should clearly indicate what you want to impact. For example, do you want to create a simpler user experience, or do you want your technical team to produce more agile work? Or do you want to increase number of customers in a particular region?

A well-written objective should describe the results you expect from all the actions you take during the quarter (longer terms at the company level). So, if your team is working on an API integration, "API Integration" is not your objective. The "API Integration" project may be a project for you to "increase the number of your corporate customers". This integration is just one of the things you will need to increase the number of corporate customers. If you only focus on API integration to have an impact on the number of customers, at the end of the day you can only focus on technical work and ignore other necessary work such as marketing and sales.

Take enough time to answer the question of what really matters and is top priority.

A team meeting of one or two hours is not enough to get the most accurate answers to the questions above. While the OKR determination process may seem like an easy exercise at first glance, writing good objectives can sometimes take days or even weeks, as it requires in-depth discussions for teams.

What do we really want to impact on? Could completing XYZ projects be an objective? Or are XYZ projects just tools that serve our objective? Will the completion of the projects have the desired result/effect? How can we change customer/user/employee behavior?

While making these discussions, the team should definitely ask the following question: If a goal sounds like a task or project that needs to be completed, the team should immediately ask themselves why we are doing this project and write the most meaningful answer to this question as the objective.


Draw the picture of 90 days after together

Asking “What do you want to see different at the end of 90 days when determining OKR at team level?” will also be a very helpful method to describe the effect you want to create. In your team meeting, first draw a picture of today (you can indeed draw a picture), then draw a picture of 90 days from now. For this activity, we recommend Patti Dobrowolski's "Draw Your Future" video.

Having your team visualize the difference between current reality and ideal reality will facilitate the objective writing process. Even if you don't draw it as a picture, you can draw a draft like the one below.


Use clear and concise language

A good objective should be easily understood by everyone. Don't write objectives that focus on more than one effect, such as "Increase profitability while increasing sales," that contains jargon or isn't clear on what you want to impact on.

Finally, we would like to give an example, which you can see in many articles on OKR, that your objective should not contain a numeric value. Achieving 100M endorsement is not a good objective, it can only be the result of well-written objectives. Or, the phrase "to be the most preferred platform for corporate customers" instead of "agreeing with 10 corporate customers" may be a good objective because such an objective describes an impact that many teams, such as marketing, product, and customer service, can contribute together.

In our next post, we'll cover how to write the best KRs.

Stay tuned!