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Objectives and Key Results methodology

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Wieslaw SzydloProject Manager
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Someone once wrote that “without execution, vision is just another word for hallucination.” Whether you are planning to run a marathon, take a trip around the world, or advance your career, without execution your plan is only a dream. Once you get started, you need measured objectives and tangible results to keep you on track.

So, how to make your development plan really happen? How can we make our goals motivate us? How to translate the current lifestyle into consistent goals?

The Objective and Key Results (OKR) methodology is a great way to help achieve our personal development objectives.

What is the Objective and Key Results (OKR) methodology?

The Objective and Key Results methodology is quite simple. It is a framework focused on setting goals (objectives) and then choosing appropriate measures (key results) that will confirm you are getting closer to them.  

Why is this method so effective? Setting goals and breaking them down into smaller steps increases our chances of achieving them:

  • Actions needed to reach the objective become clearer
  • Eeating the elephant” one bite at a time (key result after key result) is easier
  • Even small successes boost our self-esteem and motivation

In the context of organisations, OKRs are an established way of planning and executing a company’s goals within specified time periods.

Personal OKRs, on the other hand, are focused on your individual development. They may or may not be related to your current job position or professional career. Learning how to play the piano is a great example of a personal development goal!

Why set personal OKRs?

Without setting goals for yourself, you may have trouble noticing that you’ve accomplished something great, or you may see it as something not worth appreciating. Personal OKRs, when executed, can become a significant part of both your professional success and the overall joy of living.

Personal OKR examples

If you need inspiration, here are some examples of personal development goals you can set for yourself, depending on your role.

1. Objective: Become a confident public speaker in English

Key results:

  • Practice speaking with a native English teacher twice a week 
  • Give 4 company presentations in English  
  • Expand vocabulary by learning 20 new words every week 

2. Objective: Increase my productivity.

Key results:

  • Complete an online course on time management 
  • Set up my workspace comfortably
  • Install an anti-distraction app for my browser 
  • Take a 5-minute break every hour 
  • Sleep at least 8 hours a day 
  • Take 1 hour every week to plan work and set priorities 

3. Objective: Improve my profile on social media

Key results:

  • Take 10 minutes every day to comment on an industry experts’ content 
  • Post high-quality content on my social media profile at least once per week 
  • Connect with at least 10 new people every week 

Although your objectives may vary , the most important part is to clearly set out what you want achieve and by when.

Preparing a personal development plan which includes OKRs

Now, let’s discuss how to set up and execute your own OKRs step by step.

Choose your Objective

Pick an objective that appeals to you. Ideally, something more specific than “I want to develop my skills.” Goals that are too general are less likely to motivate us to work towards them. Think about what you really want to achieve. Perhaps you want to become a recognised cloud architect or a better leader?  

An objective should be ambitious enough to make you feel slightly uncomfortable, but at the same time be within your reach. The line between ambitious and unrealistic is very thin, and an unrealistic goal may demotivate you over time, sochoose carefully. .  

A  common problem which you may encounter at this stage is simply having no idea what you want to achieve or in which direction you want to go. Don’t worry, just give yourself some time to think, and maybe look for inspiration from the people surrounding you.  

Do not focus solely on your “development gaps” or “areas for improvement”. Elevate your talents! Discuss your thoughts and ideas with a colleague or your team leader and seek further support and guidance from those around you. 

Define the Key results

Plan the steps (Key results) that lead you to your objective. This will become your to-do list.

Take small steps. Keep them precise and tangible. Be sure to share your  achievements show others (“Hey, look, I did it!”) and tick them  off your to-do list.

There is no rule as to how many key results there should be, but it is best to choose between 3 and 10, each being an independent measure.  

Use an app to help you to track progress. For example, you can use Paycor to manage your OKRs. Here is my list of key results to becoming a certified Professional Scrum Master: 

A screen shot of a screen showing the progress of a project.
1. Key results in Paycor

When defining your key results, you may also try the strategy of the American writer, Kurt Vonnegut. He would first come up with the ending of the book, and then figure out what events were necessaryto reach the conclusion of a story,

Track your progress

Effective tracking is crucial for reaching your objectives. When preparing for a marathon, you have two options: you can simply run a lot, or you can enhance your training by using GPS and a heart monitor. The latter approach not only pushes you harder but also provides evidence of your progress, which in turn boosts your confidence. The former method lacks these indicators and can hinder the confidence-building process.

Be sure to review your key results regularly to track your progress, manage your pace and effort and seek guidance for your next steps.

Here is how Paycor visualises the progress you’ve made, based on regular check-ins:

A graph showing the overall progress of a project.
2 Progress tracking in Paycor

Additional personal development materials

If you would like to learn more about the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology, take a peek at these examples and guides:

  1. Don’t Set Resolutions. Set Personal OKRs
  2. How I am achieving my goal to become a greater designer in 2018 with OKRs
  3. What Matters: How to Be a Better Leader With Personal OKRs
  4. How to set your Personal OKRs and stick to them

I hope you’ll find them helpful.

And if you’d like to experience this methodology in practice, join us! Visit our Careers page to explore current opportunities.

OKR methodology works not only in the corporate world but also in people’s personal lives outside of work. Setting personal goals and steps towards them will help you decide what you want to achieve and get there while at the same time, enjoying your journey towards your accomplishments.

To achieve a goal, you need clarity of your objective. Then plan the key results, determining the progress. Finally, you must track it. Without progress tracking, it will be difficult to stay focused.

And finally: when planning your personal development, do not try to “fix” yourself at any cost: focus on your strengths and talents instead.

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A bald man in a blue shirt standing in front of a brick wall.

Wieslaw Szydlo
Project Manager