How to use OKRs as an Engineering Leader

How to use OKRs as an Engineering Leader

Software Development
July 5, 2022
If you're an engineering leader, you know that it's important to set and track goals for your team(s), but what's the best way to do this? One popular method is called OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). In this article, we will dive into OKRs and talk about how you can start using them today!

Why Measure your Goals?

There’s a famous quote that captures this well:
“What you measure is what you get”
In other words, the goals and measurements you track will help you focus on what’s important and ultimately directly impact to your output.

What are OKRs?

OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results, which is a powerful strategic framework that leaders and individuals can use to track and measure progress towards specific company and organizational goals. They are also a great motivational and strategic alignment tool, as they make it clear what’s important to focus on and helps with organizational decision making at all levels.
Objectives are the specific goals that a company or individual wants to achieve, while key results are the measurable outcomes that need to be achieved in order to consider the objective reached.

Focus on the What and Why, not the How

When writing OKRs, the main focus should be on the What and the Why, never the How. If you focus on the How you are missing the point of OKRs, they are not meant to be a tool to dictate implementation details. Instead they are meant to focus on outcomes and why those outcomes are important.

How to use OKRs

OKRs are easy to understand and utilize. Typically they are created at multiple levels within the organization. You can have company, organizational, team and even individual OKRs. Let’s focus in this article about how an engineering manager can utilize OKRs for their team.
First off, start by creating a list of 1-3 objectives that are important goals for you and your organization. From there, pick 1-3 key results for each objective. Make sure to set a time constraint for each OKR. Finally, it’s important to review these OKRs with your leadership partners and team to make sure that everyone is aligned.

Important Considerations

Some important things to keep in mind during this process are:
  1. Objectives should be realistically achievable, clear and concise. 1-3 objectives max.
  1. OKRs should be aspirational and therefore should never be used as a performance management tool.
  1. Be flexible. Don't be afraid to adjust your objectives or key results if you need to. Things change, and your goals should change with them.
  1. Communicate with your team and leadership partners. Make sure everyone on your team understands the objectives and key results, and how they fit into the bigger picture.
  1. Make sure your key results are easily measurable and that the tools needed are already in place.
    1. For example, if you intend to track daily active users (DAUs) do you have an analytics tool in place for this?
  1. Setup analytics dashboards and check them frequently and on a routine basis. Talk as a team about your progress towards your OKRs.

Example OKRs

Key Result(s)
Time constraint
Increase user satisfaction
- Average CES score of 6 - 95% positive feedback in user surveys - 70% retention rate for new users
End of Q3
Accelerate user growth
- Add 300 users per month - Users added trending upwards each month - 200 daily active users
End of Q4
Improve employee satisfaction
- Attrition less than 10% - 90% satisfaction rate in employee surveys
End of Q4