Useful things to remember


Why we work with OKRs?

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Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a management system that improve focus on priorities, team alignment, transparency and accountability of decision making and continous improvement.
The implementation of OKR management system in MSF Italy demonstrated that teams and individuals improved setting and follow up on priorities, which allowed for more focus and to postpone other activities.
Meetings structured with OKR system impact positively on focus, accountability and alignment, increasing the understanding of roles related to organizational goals.​ Also decision making is more transparent with 80% of officers reporting an improvement in such area. Subjectivity on priorities setting goes away according to MSF Italy staff.
Improved planning on priorities and tracking of the progress done increased the chance to reach ambitious objectives and enhanced the alignment in a team to achieve such objective.
This short guide to OKRs is based on few key resources:

Example: Why doing OKRs

If you want to deep dive into why organisation works with OKRs and their benefits have a look at this video. OKRs are a goal-setting method, but I encourage you to think it as a mindset.


Example: What are OKRs

Objectives are the what and Key results are the How: here’s a video to fully understand what is an objective key results and how it’s structured. In terms of Objectives, let’s think of them as the highest priorities your team needs to accomplish in the next 30-90 days.


Example: What makes good OKRs

To make an example of how to write a good OKR let’s take the example of Noah.
Imagine to have a chat with Noah when he suddenly gets the information that the universal flood is coming, and he is tasked to save all the species on earth.
He is not very good in OKR setting, so his first attempt could be:
OBJ: Build the Arc
KR: Gather the construction wood
KR: Gather equipment
KR: Gather the team.

This framing is not great. First of all the objective is really narrow, it is an output more than a goal, and doesn’t consider the animal saving side.
Second, the KRs are activities, while at this level they shall be outputs or even outcomes.

OBJECTIVE 01: Save all animals before the Universal Flood

KR: The Arc is ready for sea before the rain starts.
KR: 100% of couples of animals for every living species is gathered in the Arc before rains start.
KR: A system to evaluate the floods volume is in place before the rains starts.

This OKR is much better. The goal is clear, motivational and comprehensive. The KRs are easy to evaluate: once the rains start, is the Arc floating? Are all animal species in the Arc or just a percentage of them? Does Noah have a whether forecast system or not?


Warning: OKR vs core business

OKRs shouldn’t be exchanged / misinterpreted as the core business: OKRs are useful indicators to understand how to improve what you are doing and achieve good results / incremental innovation. Your core business can be track down thanks to the health metrics. The combination of OKR and Health Metrics (HM), allow teams to focus on priority activities, projects or innovation (OKR), meanwhile monitoring the Core Businesses Actitivities (HM). The Teams are capable to track all the activities and set their priorities

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Work and iterate on the first OKRs - don't panic

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OKRs are not an exact science, but a method: it's normal that OKRs are not super precise in the first cycle, they will be more precise after 2/3 cycle (maybe in 9months) as you will learn how to understand how to frame them in relation of how you work, the challenges you will need to face and the context you are in

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Be ambitious

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Google implemented the OKRs with a 10x approach. Meaning that they really went to stretched goals that were difficult to reach. They started as a start-up... an now look at what they are. In MSF Italy we are aligning to such approach which is helpful to push us in thinking differently to activities that otherwise would see only an incremental increase. Of course not all our objectives must be targeting at impossible results, but we have to avoid sandbagging and really give us a little positive stress to improve.

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Be kind (to yourself and the others) and learn from OKRs / act

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OKRs follow a cycle they are iterative. We are happy for a strectched goal if we reach 70-80% of the stated results. So, don't stress out if you'll not reach the 100%! The most important thing is to understand and learn why you couldn't reach the 100% of your objective, as this learning will be much useful to improve our activities and in the mid term reach even more ambitious objectives.

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