Goal Setting: Introducing OKRs

OKRs help you and your team clarify and align around top priorities — to measure what truly matters in the chaos of scaling a company. Their purpose is to create transparency in what you’re working on, visibility to how individual work impacts vision & mission, and accountability by defining success and measuring progress over time.

OKRs are a great tool for companies who have reached product-market fit and are ready to or have already started to scale. They can be used pre PMF to identify areas of focus and prioritize, but need to be flexible and lightweight so they don’t create drag on speed and agility.

Here are the fundamentals for introducing and embedding the OKR process within your team.

Quarterly cadence


Company level → Team level → Individual level

When first introducing the OKR process, you may want to start with company and team OKRs only. This can simplify the process and allow for faster adoption. Once you’ve been doing company and team level OKRs for a few cycles, then introduce individual OKRs.

The Objective

This objective should tell a compelling story. It does not need to be measurable — it can be subjective. But it should be big, bold, and inspiring.

The Key Results

KRs should be objectively measurable and quantitative.

Example OKR:

Objective: Massively grow revenue

Key Results:

  • $500,000 MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)
  • Hire 10 additional SDRs
  • Hire Sales Ops person to project manage the sales team

Company level OKRs should be broad

Example company-level objectives:

  • Profits: Massively grow revenues while minimizing expenses
  • Product: Delight our customers
  • People: Create a positive and transparent environment where we are all inspired to do our best work

OKR creation process


Day 1. Leadership Team meeting with all department heads for two hours to create company OKRs using structured brainstorming.

Day 2. Each team has a two hour group meeting to create team OKRs. Department heads should check and approve all team OKRs by end of day.

Day 3. Depending on the size of your team, you might also create sub-team OKRs. If you do, team heads should check and approve all sub-team OKRs by end of day.

Day 4. Each individual creates individual OKRs. Managers should check and approve all individual OKRs by end of day.

Day 5. At Leadership Team meeting, CEO checks and approves all OKRs. Depending on the size of your team, it may not make sense to check individual level OKRs. As long as your department heads are aware of and have approved individual OKRs, the CEO can focus on company and team OKR approval. Announce company and team OKRs to company at All Hands.

Cascading communication

Buy-in and alignment

Individuals who come up with their own OKRs that align with the company’s, rather than having them handed down, are more likely to be invested and bought in to the process.


Prompt the leadership team to update the status of their OKRs (on-track, lagging, poor) as part of regular team meetings and all 1:1s.

For OKRs that are far off-track, require that the DRI (directly responsible individual) create a written issue/solution to get back on track.

Quarterly post mortem

In developing the next cycle’s OKRs, the process that tends to get the best results is to have every leadership team member separately write up what they think the company OKRs should be for the next cycle. Then combine all the ideas into one document and discuss. You’ll see common themes and can then have a healthy debate about the company’s priorities.

Additional Tips

Ensure everyone knows how to do OKRs

Enforce standard practices

Get buy-in from everyone

Start OKRs from the top

All team and individual key results should tie back to support one of those objectives. Make sure they’re precise enough to not allow for misinterpretation, but also broad enough that people don’t feel overly restricted. The goal is to define the ‘what’ through company OKRs, and let your team decide the ‘how’ at the team level. All OKRs should tie into the ‘why’ of your company mission and vision.

Operational vs. aspirational OKRs

You might only achieve 60–70% of your OKRs. This is an aspirational OKR — a huge stretch goal you may not meet, and where 60–70% is considered success. In contrast, an operational OKR is created with the expectation that you will achieve 100% of the goal. I don’t recommend all operational OKRs for startups because it means you’re not thinking big enough. A combination of a few aspirational with one operational OKR is common. Whether you choose aspirational, operational, or a combination, the most important thing is to ensure everyone is clear on which type of OKR it is and what success means.

Do dependency checks

Have clear owners

Make OKRs public

Learn and iterate



Executive Coach for startup founders, execs & investors. Background in Counseling Psychology & VC. Outgoing introvert. laurenadellecoaching.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lauren Adelle Coaching

Executive Coach for startup founders, execs & investors. Background in Counseling Psychology & VC. Outgoing introvert. laurenadellecoaching.com