Pre-Work for Setting OKRs

Pre-Work for Setting OKRs: Building a Foundation for Success

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) offer a proven framework to achieve strategic goals that align your team with your company’s vision. But diving into OKRs without careful planning can lead to misaligned objectives and wasted efforts. Here’s a concise guide to the essential pre-work you need to build a solid foundation for setting impactful OKRs.

1. Clarify Your Mission and Vision

Start by revisiting your organization’s mission (why you exist) and vision (what you want to achieve). Your OKRs should align with this overarching purpose and long-term direction. A clear mission and vision give OKRs meaning and inspire your team to work toward a shared goal.

2. Revisit and Evolve Your Strategy

Examine your current strategy to see if it still aligns with the mission and vision. Adjust the approach to accommodate new trends, market demands, and challenges that have arisen. Evolving your strategy ensures that your OKR remains relevant and takes advantage of emerging opportunities.

  • Consider whether new technology or market shifts require an updated approach.
  • Identify strategic shifts that will help achieve long-term goals.

3. Understand Stakeholder Priorities

Identify the key priorities of customers, investors, and partners to ensure your OKRs reflect their needs.

  • Customers: What pain points are they facing, and how can your OKRs solve them?
  • Investors: What growth targets do they expect you to meet?
  • Partners: How can collaboration enhance your competitive advantage?

Aligning OKRs with these priorities will ensure broader buy-in and a clear focus on value.

4. Set Timeframes and Identify Resources

Decide whether your OKRs will be quarterly or annual, depending on your strategy. Assess available resources—budget, staffing, and tools—to set realistic, achievable goals.

  • Be sure to understand how much capacity you have to work on strategic goals. How many person-hours are available, considering all the daily business as usual work that needs doing?
  • Research varies, but it appears that we only have 3-4 hours of true productivity a day. If we assume 2-3 hours of other work: meetings, emails and chatting, it becomes clear that most day are 6 hours and the rest productivity theater.
  • If a person is 100% on a task, count them as six hours a week, 50% 3 hours a week and so on. The capacity of your team is always less than you wish.

5. Align Across Departments

Hold cross-departmental meetings to ensure alignment across your organization. Each department’s objectives should complement one another to create a cohesive strategy.

  • Host collaborative sessions where departments discuss how their goals support company-wide OKRs.
  • Identify where teams need to work together to deliver key results.

6. Review Past Performance

Examine previous OKRs or strategic plans to see what worked and what didn’t. Were objectives too ambitious or not challenging enough? Did key results deliver tangible outcomes?

Leverage these insights to refine your OKRs, focusing on clear, measurable goals that build on past learnings. If people didn’t even get close to the desired effect, choose gentle “yoga stretch” goals instead of moonshot goals. If teams are achieving OKRs easily, then nudge them to aim 10% higher.

Never forget this is a mathon, not a sprint. Burning out your best performers is expensive (and depressing.)

7. Involve Your Team in Brainstorming

Early involvement fosters a sense of ownership. Host brainstorming sessions with your team to explore potential objectives and key results that align with your strategic direction.

8. Establish Clear Guidelines for Setting OKRs

Create concise guidelines that define what makes a good OKR:

  • Objectives: Ambitious yet achievable goals that are qualitative, time-bound, and aligned with the mission.
  • Key Results: Quantifiable outcomes that are specific, measurable, and linked to the objective.

Stick to 1 OKR per timeframe set to maintain focus.

9. Establish Review and Feedback Processes

Schedule regular progress reviews (monthly or quarterly) to assess how your OKRs are tracking. This allows for adjustments if needed and creates opportunities to celebrate milestones.

  • Decide what “success” looks like. Is it 100% achievement? 70%? Don’t assume everyone has the same expectations.
  • Implement a feedback mechanism where teams can share best practices. Will you use numbers? Grades? No pure qualitative evaluation?
  • Recognize effective efforts to maintain motivation and momentum. It’s tempting to celebrate someone who has gone above and beyond, but a culture of heroes can hurt your company in the long run. Celebrate teams.


By doing the right pre-work, you’ll set OKRs that align with your company’s strategic direction and inspire your team to achieve measurable success. Clarifying your mission and vision, understanding stakeholder priorities, and aligning across departments will help build the foundation for OKRs that drive meaningful results and keep your organization moving forward together.