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  • Writer's pictureZack Ross

How Google creates OKRs

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Google has a well-defined process for creating and implementing OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Here are the general steps involved:

  1. Set company-wide objectives: At the beginning of each quarter, Google sets company-wide objectives that reflect its strategic priorities. These objectives are typically broad, aspirational statements that capture the company's overall goals for the quarter.

  2. Cascading objectives: Once the company-wide objectives have been established, they are cascaded down to each team and individual in the company. Each team and individual creates their own set of objectives that align with the company-wide objectives.

  3. Set measurable key results: For each objective, measurable key results are established. Key results are specific, measurable outcomes that indicate whether the objective has been achieved.

  4. Assign accountability and transparency: Each objective and key result is assigned an owner who is responsible for ensuring that it is achieved. This helps to ensure accountability and transparency throughout the company.

  5. Review and update regularly: OKRs are regularly reviewed and updated throughout the quarter to ensure that progress is being made towards achieving the company's goals. This allows for adjustments to be made as needed.

  6. Celebrate progress: When objectives and key results are achieved, Google celebrates the progress made towards achieving its strategic priorities. This helps to build momentum and maintain motivation throughout the company.

Overall, Google's OKR process emphasizes alignment, accountability, and transparency to ensure that everyone in the company is working towards the same goals.

About OKRs at Google

In January 2000, a member of the Board of Directors, John Doerr, stressed the importance of setting overall company objectives and measuring key results. Since then, Google has published company-wide OKRs every quarter.

OKRs are big, not incremental—we don’t expect to hit all of them or we’re not setting them aggressively enough. At the end of each quarter, OKRs are graded with a color scale to measure how well we did:

  • 0.0-0.3 is Red

  • 0.4-0.6 is Yellow

  • 0.7-1.0 is Green

Company OKRs

Company-wide OKRs are set by Google Leads at the start of each year. Employees can view the company OKRs at an internal website. They grade themselves quarterly and update Googlers on their progress via Google Strategy Meetings and company meetings throughout the year.

In addition to company-wide OKRs, managers develop departmental and team OKRs that support the company strategy. Googlers also set their own individual OKRs to align with their team. This process keeps them focused on the biggest priorities and ensures that every Googler contributes to the success of Google as a whole.

Creating OKRs

All Googlers set their own quarterly OKRs with their managers. These are intended to support the key objectives of each team, department and Google.

Objectives are what you want to accomplish:

  • Make objectives aggressive, yet realistic.

  • Keep it simple.

  • Write them as an after-the-fact statement, as if it’s the end of the quarter.

  • Example: Product X successfully launched with 50M 30-day active users

Key results are how you will accomplish the objectives:

  • Make them measurable and specific.

  • Limit key results to progress toward the end outcome, not the intermediate process steps.

  • Add a target completion date if relevant.

  • Example: Users save $100M in Q3 with product X

Google managers are expected to work with their teams to define and set quarterly OKRs. They publish their team OKRs and stay accountable by checking in midway through and at the end of the quarter.

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