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May 14, 2013

Google OKRs

Rick Klau, who is now a partner at Google Ventures, gave an interesting talk about Google OKRs. "Objectives and Key Results" (OKRs) have been used by Google since 1999 and they're a great way to set ambitious goals and to measure how much you've achieved. Each Google employee has his own OKRs, each Google team has a few OKRs and there are some Google-wide OKRs that reflect the most important priorities of the company. All OKRs are public inside the company, so each employee knows what's going on.

There are yearly OKRs and there are quarterly OKRs. Usually there are no more than 5 objectives and each objective has a few key results that help you determine the progress. Key results have to be measurable. An example of objective is improving Gmail revenue and a key result could be adding a new ad format that doubles the CTR (click-through rate). At the end of the quarter, you can grade each key result and attribute a value from 0 to 1.0. Apparently, it's best when your average grade is somewhere between 0.6 and 0.7. If your grades are higher, the goals aren't ambitious enough.

"To make sure our products work seamlessly together across Google, we're focusing more on broader OKRs – big company goals that can only be achieved if everyone works together. For example, a recent OKR objective for our search team was to improve the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, which restates and reiterates the company's mission statement. The key results underneath that objective included metrics and projects for the quarter, many of which span a number of teams, ensuring a well-coordinated push toward a shared goal. Having these shared goals also has the benefit of helping prevent the formation of silos – always a concern as companies grow," explains a Google Think Insights article.

Rick Klau joined Google from the FeedBurner acquisition and he worked on products like Blogger, Google Profiles and YouTube. The talk includes some examples of OKRs for Blogger. Back in 2008, the most important objective for Blogger was to improve revenue.


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