OKRs for Startups

A 4 stage guide to adopt the Objective and Key Results framework in your organization.

Setting the foundations for OKRs

How to create a shared vision document and track progress monthly

OKRs can be really disruptive if your team is not used to setting goals. Up until now, your team has invested a lot of time and efforts to excel at delivering on time, and all of a sudden they are told that their ability to produce outputs doesn't matter as much.

Even if people understand the idea of focusing on value, it is a hard shift to do when you've been trained on deliverables.

To get started we need to make sure that (1) there's a shared understanding of the purpose and priorities of the business and (2) you have the means to track progress. We'll see in this guide how we can achieve both with a simple vision document and monthly goal-tracking.

Audience

stage 1

You're in stage 1 of goal setting:

  • Your team has been mostly focused on deliverables.
  • You're new to goal setting frameworks.
  • Roadmaps and priorities are defined by leadership.

Requirements

✔ A shared doc or wiki
✔ A Tability account and workspace

What we'll do

  • Create a vision document
  • Track progress on a monthly basis

Step 1. Creating a shared vision

Being outcome-driven starts with leadership. Without a clear picture of what the future should look like it will be impossible for the team to know what they're supposed to do. A team that does not have a North Star cannot take initiatives. They're forced to wait for a list of tasks coming from above, and this creates a pervasive culture of micromanagement as it's the only way to move forward.

Thankfully, it does not take much to change that situation. We have a simple model derived from Salesforce V2MOM that helps put a vision on (virtual) paper. We will call that document the PFM which stands for Purpose > Focus > Measures.

Purpose

The purpose is the mission statement of your business. This is why you exist and it needs to last several years. If your mission statement can be completed within a couple of months then it's either too precise (a feature) or you might not have a clear understanding of what you're trying to achieve.

Your purpose should be loose enough that it doesn't stifle innovation, but it should also anchor your business in a clear market.

Intercom's mission statement (its purpose) is to make business personal. It's powerful because it relates clearly to their initial product (business messenger) and you can also see many other opportunities for them in the future.

You can use the 5 Whys to help you drill down and understand why your product exists, and don't hesitate to do several rounds with your team to refine your statement.

Focus

The Focus Areas list your top priorities for the next 12 months. Those priorities should be written in a clear and concise way, and you should not be mentioning metrics yet.

The Focus Areas can be about the market, capabilities, or a stage of your product lifecycle. Their role is to paint the picture of what you want to be at the end of the year. Some examples could be:

  • Dominate the Asia-Pacific market
  • Create a stellar Ecosystem
  • Grow customer love

Do not list more that 4 focus areas, otherwise you'll distract your team with competing priorities. You need to have a clear message and inspire your organization to be laser-focused.

Measures

Finally, you'll need to add 2 or 3 measurable goals for each of your focus areas. Think of it as the way for you to check progress and to know if you're successful.

Examples of measures for Dominate the Asia-Pacific market could be:

  • Get 50 customers in the top 100 businesses of the Asia-Pacific market
  • Be mentioned in 10 publications as an industry leader

Put everything together in a doc or spreadsheet to have something that you can share with your team.

foundations pfm spreadsheet

Step 2. Create a page to track your plan with Tability

Once you have your plan, it's time to start tracking things. This is how you'll make sure you stay accountable and focused on what matters the most for your business.

This is where Tability will come in handy:

  • You'll be able to easily add goals and assign them to leadership.
  • Our bot Tabby will send reminders every month.
  • Sharing progress will be light and easy, and historical data will be kept.

Go to your workspace in Tability and create a new page.

foundations page form

Since we're going to track goals for the entire year, we can pick a monthly frequency for the updates. Picking a weekly frequency might be too much at this stage, and it's important to keep things light while you also work on educating your team on the value of goal-tracking.

When that is done we can create a section for each of the Focus Areas of the PFM plan.

foundations sections

Next you can add goals for each of the Measures of the plan.

foundation create goal

Once all the corresponding goals are added, your page should look like the following.

In this example all the examples have been assigned to me, but you should spread them among your leadership team.

foundations page

Step 3. Share progress

On the first day of each month, Tability will send a reminder to each goal owner and prompt them to update their progress. Having a tight feedback loop on our goals will make sure that we keep in mind what our top priorities are, and help us adjust the strategy early if needed.

Sharing updates is simple and will answer the following questions:

  • How much progress have we done? (progress)
  • Are we on-track? (status)
  • Is there something that needs to be done about the current situation? (comment)

foundations update form

After creating a new update, you will be able to see visually where you are compared to where you're expected to be.

Your team can subscribe to the page to be automatically notified when progress is updated.

Step 4. Adjust

It's very likely that you'll miss your targets at the beginning. You're just getting started, so it will be hard to draw proper lines in the sand. Finding a small set of metrics that guides your business the right way is hard, and figuring out what the targets should be is even more complex.

My advice is to avoid spending too much time crafting your metrics. Pick something that seems sensible to the team and run with it. Then, as you share progress and get a better understanding of the vitals of your business you'll be able to refine your Measures and change your goals.

Give yourself some time to learn and get it right, but don't shy away to start making predictions.


Send us your questions and feedback via Twitter at @tabilityio