So, OKRs – Objectives and Key Results.
The goal-setting approach has been a framework of choice for many companies for over half a century now. While it is true that it may not work for every case, for one reason or another, the examples of organizations that successfully enhanced their business performance and reached new levels of excellence using this framework are hard to count.
After all, there must be something special about OKRs when some of the most influential brands in the world use them.
For example, when in 1999 John Doerr introduced the approach to Google’s co-founders Sergey Brin remarked: “We don’t have any other way to manage this company, so we will give it a try”. (source: TED). And here they are today. Certainly, they were not sure about what would come out of this, but the results of what Google has achieved speak for themselves.
Even though Google OKRs is the brightest example, let’s discuss some OKR success stories of other companies that successfully manage their goals nowadays.
5 Stories of Companies Where Objectives Translated into Real Results
Unbable and OKRs Growing Together
This story takes us back to 2015 when Unbable (a startup company at that time) was expanding its team, and the need to keep everybody in the loop was a critical task to take care of. As a fast-growing company, they were searching for a method to align their strategic goals with the company’s mission, set a clear direction for all employees to follow, and improve the current processes so they can continuously grow.
After the research was conducted, the team settled on the OKR framework.
Their approach to introducing OKR included a fun outdoor activity that involved the whole team and allowed each and everyone to freely share their ideas about their vision of where the company was headed. With the help of a partner company, the management was able to set their company-wide OKRs.
Without going into details, here are the three objectives Unbable determined at the time:
- Increase Unbabel’s MRR by x%.
- Increase Unbabel’s translation quality by x% for our main language pairs.
- Increase Unbabel’s performance by x% for English to Spanish translations.
They were optimistic about this transformation until they saw some challenges in keeping everything in one place, tracking progress, and communicating the objectives and key results among the teams worldwide. The next step for them was to adopt a suitable OKR software.
With the right tool, they have now ensured alignment and work visibility across the company, free and easy-to-access communication across different time zones, real progress tracking, and boost to their cross-functional projects. (Source: Unbabel).
Hello OKRs from Hello Tractor
Hello Tractor – a service platform that connects tractor owners with small farmers in Africa, began its OKR journey back in 2018, right after they stepped outside the Nigerian market and opened their second office in Kenya.
The reasons they turned to OKRs include:
- Maintaining connections between their local and distributed teams
- Achieving alignment with the company's primary objectives
- Providing employees a way to manage their own growth
Their journey started with a small Agile team and quickly expanded to all levels. While adopting the new method, management has implemented various changes but kept the Lean principles in practice. Their goal was to ensure that all employees were not overburdened with extra meetings and activities, switch their OKR spreadsheets with OKR software for easy work management, and let people take ownership of their own OKRs.
Undergoing this OKR transformation, the outcomes reached Hello Tractor's doorstep. The company has achieved its goal of company-wide work visibility and alignment. In addition, team collaboration and engagement are better than ever, thanks to company-wide transparency. Most importantly, people understand their work is meaningful to the company’s performance (Source: PodBean).
The Operating Rhythm of T-Mobile
The fast-changing business environment of the telecommunication industry and the customer-centric company’s vision raised the need for a joint work management approach to align the group effort to support T-Mobile's overall growth strategy.
The OKR methodology fitted perfectly into their large-scale transformation and rapidly growing team.
Along their way of fostering the OKR culture, the Digital Product Department has learned many valuable lessons that made them realize that this transition did not happen overnight. Still, it is a long-term continuing process that takes true commitment. As part of the process of embedding OKRs in their active part of working, a few good practices are stated and followed:
- Creating a safe environment for all people to freely share their ideas about things that can be changed and finding new opportunities for self-improvement;
- Conducting retrospective meetings to review the OKRs and think of the next action items;
- Actively involving employees along the whole way of creating and executing OKRs;
- Exchanging ideas and syncing progress with other business units regarding the shared objectives.
Now OKRs are becoming central to the organization's operating rhythm, the three significant results that OKRs have brought to the company are:
- Providing shared outcomes and common direction for all teams across the organization.
- Empowering teams and making them accountable for their own OKRs.
- Ensuring connection to their customer value.
The New Beginning for BaseKit
BaseKit decided they needed a new system when they realized that each team’s performance was remarkable; however, it was hard to see how their contribution fit the company’s strategy and goals. They wanted to adopt a framework to guide everyone in creating and aligning ideas that match the organization's objectives and acknowledge everyone’s efforts to the final company results.
The management was looking for a framework that was easy to enroll in and flexible enough to fit every team's current process and system. It turned out the OKR methodology was what they needed.
The first rollout of OKRs was a complete success. Everyone in the company could now see the company's main strategic goals. From then, every team and individual got the autonomy and power to create their team-OKRs that directly correspond to the main objectives. As a result, groups and individuals were actively involved in open discussions about the things that may need to change, and cross-functional collaboration got stronger, ultimately leading to increased effectiveness.
Pinterest: Setting Scaling OKRs
The global image and idea-sharing platform has been on its OKR journey for quite some time. For the last decade, the company has grown tremendously, and it was natural for the teams to reach a point where they lost track of what was happening in their organization. This was when leaders realized they needed a process to align teams' daily work to the company objectives as they were scaling.
Pinterest leaders started using a Pyramid Structure (Company → Pillars → Teams → Individuals) to scale their OKRs across the organization. In a nutshell, the company uses its strategy to create pillar objectives that represent goals for a specific focus area within the business. Those “pillar” objectives are then communicated with teams who align their own team-OKRs with the higher-level goals. In Pinterest’s structure, the output from the team's plans moves along the structure and becomes the foundation to create "pillar" key results for each "pillar" objective.
This is just a prelude to Pinterest’s implementation, and we encourage you to learn more here. However, the key takeaway is that the company was determined to scale OKRs, and soon enough, the results came. As a result, Pinterest has expanded outside the US, made it easier for everyone to read its strategic goals and understand their impact, brought transparency, and strengthened teams' collaboration.
Other Company Examples Using OKRs Not to Miss
As much as I want to include as many examples as possible, that would be hard to do (and it will take you forever to finish them all). So, I am listing some other fascinating OKR stories you should definitely look at (the list is made up of very popular enterprises and also some less known but still worth the check domains):
- SPAR South Africa
- The Stepstone Group
- And many more
Check the Stats, Trust the Results
With so many successful stories, the OKRs framework has proven its effectiveness over the years.
To back up the examples above, here are some general facts and data about the impact OKRs have on companies and their performance (Source: Datalligence AI)
- Nearly 60% of the companies use OKR as part of their transformation initiatives.
- The top three reasons why companies introduce OKRs are increased transparency, improved prioritization, and effective strategy execution, followed by increasing organizational agility and innovation.
- Companies using OKRs tend to have better strategy-to-execution alignment, which results in increasing revenue growth by almost 60%.
- Nearly 83% of companies working with OKRs believe they have benefited from implementing the framework.
So, while the examples are endless, we know that putting anything into practice is not easy. But that should never discourage you from trying. Because nobody does it perfectly the first time around. If there is a secret, it’s about starting out and gradually improving on the go.
You never know – maybe your company will be featured in our part 2 OKR success stories list.
Outgoing person with a passion for all things marketing. Never-ending drive to learn new things. Topics of interest: world history, true crime, and unsolved mysteries. Loves Geography and Dancing.