Why Your Startup Should Use OKRs
I was introduced to Adam Lieb, CEO of Duxter, when he approached 7Geese, eager to share his experience using OKRs in his company. I thought that it was an excellent opportunity for our readers to get a real-life example of how implementing OKRs in your organization can benefit you. 7Geese uses OKRs as well and it is great to see how other startups are embracing it. We would like to thank Adam for his contribution and look forward to further collaborations.
If you want your startup to be transparent, accountable, have the right priorities, and be clear on the strategy at all times, you should be using OKRs.
Awesome picture of Adam
Two months ago, we implemented OKRs at Duxter. We are a young startup with 11 people (full & part time) working to build the best place online for gamers to live their gamer life. Like all startups we struggle with priorities. Possibly the most used/overused saying at Duxter is “bigger fish to fry.” Or as some of our British cohorts say “larger salmon to filet.” We use this term whenever we are prioritizing one task over another. “Sorry I’d like to fix that, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” This is just our way of telling each other that we have higher priorities. The biggest problem with this mentality is that not everyone is always on the same page in terms of which fish is the biggest. That’s where implementing OKRs has really helped us.
What are OKRS?
Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) is a management tool invented by John Doerr and made popular by Google. It is meant to be a lightweight system intended to focus each individual in an organization on the most important objectives in front of them by setting measurable key results they want to hit each month.
The best explanation including in-depth and detailed examples can be found in this lecture given by by Rick Klau of Google Ventures
7Geese also has a simple but complete definition of OKRs found here:
How OKRs have helped us
Knowing what to be working on:
We had two big “fish problems.” The first was having competing views of which fish we should be frying. Often times, these drastically different views caused conflict and inefficiency.
The second was our biggest fish seemed to change on a weekly or even daily basis. It became more and more difficult to keep everyone in the company apprised of where their individual focus should be.
Instituting OKRs have helped significantly with both of these problems. By publishing our three biggest goals each month, there is never any debate on what we should all be working on. We spend some time at the beginning of the month negotiating and ensuring we select the right goals. Once they are published everyone falls in line and works their hardest to fry those fish all month long.
Clarity of purpose:
OKRs have helped us make sure everyone is on the same page. It is the clearest and simplest way to describe strategy to an entire group of people. We start by setting OKRs for the company, and then team-based OKRs around how that team can support the company OKRs. Then each individual sets OKRs for supporting their team OKRs. This way, when we make strategic shifts it is unbelievably simple to make sure that gets trickled down into tactical decisions by tweaking our goals at each level.
Running a transparent company is pretty easy when you have 3-4 people together in one room but it gets progressively more difficult as your team grows. This became especially troubling for me as CEO. Sure we did standups, one on ones, and checkins but it became more difficult to do this efficiently as our team grew. This also started becoming an issue for other team members who felt increasingly clueless about what someone on the other side of the org chart was working on. OKRs really helped us tie everything together. It became much clearer as to how everyone fit together and how this all rolled up to the grand vision for the company. After the first month I had one developer say to me “Oh that is what you do” after reviewing my CEO OKRs.
Feeling of progress:
Momentum is such a critical factor for startups. This isn’t just true for fundraising, press, and partnerships, it is also true for morale. OKRs have really helped us “feel” our progress. I am now able to send out an email at the end of the month with an update on all we accomplished that month. The email is long with a ton of great hit milestones. The best part is that it only takes me five minutes to put together. I don’t believe we are actually getting more done since instituting OKRs but it definitely feels like we are.
We’re only two months into using OKRs and I can honestly say it was one of the best internal decisions I’ve ever made as CEO. I strongly recommend building OKRs into your company culture as early as possible to ensure transparency, progress, and clarity of purpose are core to your startup.