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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

OKRs for people who hate OKRs

Move from debates to action and results with this stress-free OKR framework.

OKR season can be overwhelming, with hours of debates. But it doesn't have to be! This six-part framework can turn your OKRs from a source of stress into a valuable business tool.

First, don't blame the tool. OKRs don't cause problems, they merely highlight them. If everyone has a clear understanding of the business and their role, OKRs should write themselves. If not...focus on the root cause.

Once your team has crafted their OKRs, use these six precepts to bottom out OKR debates:

1. The 90/10 rule - Assume 90% of your results will come from 10% of the stuff you try, and focus on the 10% that can be huge. Literally, calculate, "If it works, how big can this be?" At PayPal, Peter Thiel gave each person one project and refused to discuss anything else with them.

2. KRs track outcomes - Key Results are *results* (e.g. # of qualified leads), not work units (e.g. # of meetings booked). Hold your team accountable for the results they achieve, and give them the freedom to figure out the best way to get there. As Steve Jobs said, “We don't hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

3. Herding Cats - If teams are pulling in different directions, ask them each to connect their main KRs to your North Star metric (e.g. monthly active users). When everyone's solving for the same ultimate outcome, it's easier to prioritise work across different teams.

4. Managing the ADHD - Founders have ADHD and startups pivot, that’s a feature not a bug. But teams can’t execute without a bit of sustained focus. When new ideas come, don’t abandon your strategy, but test them. Identify the risky assumptions, write hypotheses and run experiments. Don't change directions when you get a new idea, change directions when you validate it.

5. JFDI or DFTU? For some projects, like growth experiments, speed is more important than quality, so JFDI "just f****ng do it." But other projects, like security and availability, are mission critical, or DFTU ("don't f*** this up.") Those are mutually exclusive, so make sure everyone is on the same page from the start.

6. Sharpen the saw - Ask each team member to take one personal growth goal. This doesn't have to mean fixing a weakness. Instead encourage strong performers to build on their strengths or learn a new skill or domain.

Simple Next Step

When intelligent people disagree they’re usually working from different assumptions. So use these precepts to get to the root cause. I hope they help you turn your OKRs from a source of endless debate into a valuable tool.

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