How to implement Objectives and Key Results OKRs in Asana

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We all work a lot. But if we work on the wrong projects, we simply waste time.

Before working on any project, it is very important to clarify what the objectives are to actually judge if the project you want to work on will help to reach this objective and if perhaps another project will help more and should consequently be higher priority. We will cover the following aspects:

  1. What are Objectives and Key Results (OKR)?
  2. Why you should use OKR for goal setting?
  3. History of OKR
  4. How to write OKR?
  5. Implementation of OKR in Asana

1) What are Objectives and Key Results (OKR)?

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a framework of defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. It seeks to ensure employees work together and focus their efforts to make measurable contributions. The main goal of OKR is to define company and team objectives along with the measurable key results that define achievement of each objective.

2) Why you should use OKR for goal setting?

OKRs are used by numerous very successful companies for instance Google. OKRs can foster longer-term thinking and the discipline of planning before taking action. For the assignee, putting goals in writing also clarifies expectations and enables open measurement of progress and definition of success. They also support cross-functional communication when shared across the organization so that teams have visibility into goals across every department, helping to align and focus efforts. Moreover, it dramatically increases the transparency, since usually more than half of a company workforce cannot name the top three company objectives.
Last but not least, the OKR are easier to understand than normal goals since you have a clear qualitative objective and a clear and measurable quantitative key result. Many traditional goals mix this up, and some people within the organization are not able to understand it, imagine the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) your engineering team has …

3) History of OKR

The image and some of the further images are from Perdoo, a company which produces special OKR software.

Peter Drucker was the first one who made Management by Objectives (MBO) popular. Later John Doerr developed the concept further into OKR and introduced it at Intel. Later he introduced it at Google where it became very popular. This is also the reason why many people belief that OKRs were invented at Google.
Nowadays, there are even SaaS companies like Perdoo who develop software just to track OKRs. From my point of view, this software has no features yet which justifies the additional costs, since you can track your OKRs also in Asana and have the advantage of having everything in one tool :slight_smile: Plus a new tool has always be trained and communicated within your organization.

4) How to write effective OKR?

I will now describe how OKR are defined and how you can write your own.

Objective: Is a qualitative goal, for a set period of time, usually a quarter.

Key Result: Is a quantitative metric used to measure if the objective has been met by the end of the period.
But to define objectives your company first needs a vision!

See the connection in this example:

Company-wide publication of drafted OKRs or presentation including Q&A can assure cross-functional alignment and agreement on dependencies before finalization. Especially at the end of a goal period, an assessment of each key result per goal and its accomplishment should happen.

To define your OKRs you basically need to ask yourself these three questions:

  • 1. Where do you need to go?
  • 2. How will you know you are getting there?
  • 3. What will you do to get there?

 

Question 0. you need to ask even before would be “What is your vision”. Once defined write it down.
Question 1. is your objective.
Question 2. are your key results.
Question 3 are the projects and action items.

Some more detailed help to distinguish objectives, key results and action items from the company Perdoo (key actions/ projects):

5) Implementation of OKRs in Asana

It all starts with a project dedicated to your OKRs, I prefer to call it Roadmap. The objective tasks can still exist via multi-homing in the projects and roadmaps of the different departments but I strongly recommend to have this Overall Company Roadmap, because people need to have everything at one view. Some people might suggest an advanced search to collect all OKRs from different projects, but I found many people are not familiar with advanced search. And I want it to be as easy as possible for employees to see the OKRs.

I recommend sections for the different time periods, the closer to the present day, the shorter they are. Especially in the current and following year I recommend quarterly sections. Feel free to also use monthly sections, but I do not want to be too granular, otherwise I find myself shifting objectives through the sections every month :slight_smile: And I always ask myself what are the advantages of additional details? Do they justify the effort?

It all starts with the vision, which is the first task of the project. I use these parentheses [[ … ]] to indicate this is the vision.

The vision task looks like this:

I defined several custom fields especially for the Key Results. But let us continue with the objectives first. So every objective is a subtask of the vision, since the objective is derived from the visionI use again parentheses [ …] but only one, to indicate this task is an objective.
The objectives themselves are inside the roadmap again:

 

The objectives should have an assignee of course. Since I personally like the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) framework, which says there can only be one person overall responsible for the objective, it is nice that Asana allows only one assignee per task :slight_smile:

As mentioned I collect the measurable and quantitative Key Results in the custom fields. This has the advantages that I do not mix it up with objectives and I can use Custom Fields very good to compare and sort by Key Results.

I personally prefer one [Key Result] custom field where I can write whatever I want. Moreover, I have a special custom field for Key Results which might apply for many objectives like Revenue/month. Last but not least I have a custom field to track the progress in %. This field is also used to assess the success in the end of the time period and to say how much bonus is paid. Of course you can add more details about the process of the objective in the comment section.
You can choose on your own which of the custom fields you would like to have displayed in the project overview! If you do the quarterly assessment it makes sense to display the custom field for % reached.

See a filled version:

Later if you have more detailed objectives, for instance for your marketing department, you can add the sub-objectives for this department as subtasks inside the original objective to have a clear view how these objectives are connected and derived from each other.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • OKR is the #1 goal implementation framework
  • You can easily setup OKRs with Asana and make them trackable
  • Your employees will become more engaged and happier if they see directly how their daily work will benefit your company objectives

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to write us an email to hi@agilemanagement.eu

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