When was the last time you really thought about what you wanted to accomplish in the next 12 months? Most of us will take part in the somewhat dated ritual of coming up with New Year’s Resolutions, but do we really know what they mean? 12 months is a long time, and many people stick to a New Year’s Resolution for less than a month before they drop out.
Often times, New Year’s Resolutions are just subtly veiled attempts at fixing what you don’t like about yourself. I’m overweight, so I should resolve to go to the gym every day. I’m depressed, maybe I should try mindfulness. It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas sugar rush and the New Year’s buzz and think that resolutions are going to be easy-peasy. But history will tell us that New Year’s Resolutions are some of the hardest things to accomplish.
Enter John Doerr and the concept of OKRs, or Objectives & Key Results. If someone sits you down and asks you to to describe your long term objectives and key result areas, would you know how to respond? Likely not, but by starting to think in this way you might start to develop an appreciation for the hard work that goes into forming long terms goals, and how much strategic thinking goes into coming up with the best ways to reach those goals.
John Doerr is a venture capitalist from Kleiner Perkins in Menlo Park, California who often speaks about the importance of setting far reaching goals tied to specific tactics and actions. In his TED Talk on the real secret to success, Doerr outlines how powerful setting specific goals and targeted actions can be to achieving long term success.
I’ve long been a fan of the OKR method, both for its simplicity and its effectiveness. If you don’t know much about it, the fine people at Google have put together a fantastic overview of how to set OKRs.
Now, if you’re looking for ways to develop more far-reaching goals for yourself or your organization, check out these four ways to identify the perfect OKRs:
1. Develop an annual outlook
Don’t try to stretch too far when you set your OKRs. Start with objectives that you can reach in a year in a stretch, rather than objectives that you MIGHT reach in 3-5 years. Breaking down objectives into the perfect size is often an art, as you don’t want to go too short (one month) or too long (2-3 years).
Goals that are too short term run the risk of not being inspiring enough to drive action, while long term objectives are harder to grasp.
“The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo
2. Focus on the purpose, mission and vision
Spend time asking yourself what the main thing is you’re talking about in this situation. What is the topic at hand? Perhaps more importantly, what is in scope, and what is out of scope? Make sure the objective is something that inspires you and your team, rather than just you.
Imagine standing up in front of a group of people and talking about the same topic, over and over again, over the space of a year. If the idea of this doesn’t excite you, it’s best to choose a topic or a theme that is better suited to your interests.
3. Break down the vision
Once you’ve defined your vision clearly, determine what it will take to get there. Take your time on this step. Define and agree on the results and the actions that are required to reach that long-term objective.
Outline 1-3 key actions and results which will drive success of the objective. If there are over 5 key actions necessary to reach success, it may be necessary to break out that large objective into multiple smaller objectives.
“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Create a culture of check-ins and catch-ups
Get into the habit of having weekly and monthly check-ins so that people are aware of the progress being made on each objective. This is a good opportunity to get other people involved and interested in what you’re working on and share what you’ve been excited about in recent weeks. The hard part about this is maintaining consistency and making sure you don’t miss a week or two.
The power of OKRs is incredible if implemented correctly, and I would recommend them to anyone who has previously (successfully or unsuccessfully) attempted to adopt a New Year’s Resolution for the betterment of themselves and their team.
How are you going to make sure you stay on track with your resolutions for this year? Share your thoughts and advice for others below!
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