What Is An OKR And What Is Its Origin?
Before we dive into the benefits of OKRs when managing goal-setting strategies, let’s explain where the term ‘OKR’ came from in the first place.
The concept of OKR was popularised by Andrew Grove, a successful businessman and engineer, during his tenure as the CEO of the globally renowned tech powerhouse, Intel. In 1975, Grove taught a course at Intel, and in it, he shared a revolutionary system for goal setting and accountability which he coined as iMBOs.
One of the attendees of this course was John Doerr, a future guru of Kleiner Perkins and Google. Doerr was encapsulated by the deceivingly simple yet effective nature of Grove’s new goal-setting methodology.
Unlike the popular systems at the time, Grove’s system focused on outcomes and not procedure. This was the total anthesis of the mainstream methodologies and to Doerr, it was entirely unconventional and 100% genius.
Doeer was so taken by Grove’s OKRs that he introduced the framework into his own personal working culture and later shared it with fractions at Google, where it quickly became central to the company culture and was renamed OKRs. OKRs are now bread and butter at Google. In fact, the co-founder of Google Larry Page even credited part of the internet phenomenon's global growth and success to Doerrs system of OKRs.
Since then, the OKR system has gone from strength to strength. It didn’t just find favor with the biggest and brightest occupants of Silicon Valley such as the management of Twitter, Uber, Microsoft, and Gitlab, but it entered the offices and strategies of organizations of all sizes worldwide. Grove’s seemingly simple technology has become revolutionary and the acronym OKR is a commonly heard and utilized phrase in finance, HR, and marketing.
Unlike conventional management objectives, OKRs hand the power and agency over to the individual and team. It is not top-down, hierarchial, or linked to compensation. Instead, it revolves around the goals of a single individual/team and operates on the principle of achieving aims and tracking progress. It encourages people to develop initiative in achieving their goals instead of focusing solely on day-to-day tasks and refraining from strategizing on how their every day is shaping their future.
In this way, OKRs can pillar a motivated team’s progression to success and prevent stagnancy. The framework enables people to connect their annual or quarterly objectives to their everyday tasks and ensure that they are contributing to their progression and not just getting lost in the monotony of modern-day working culture. Setting clear objectives and key results gives individuals and organizations structure and prioritizes the activities that truly drive progress.