How often should we set OKRs?

Zack Ross, OKR Workshop, Google AI Challenge, Google For Startup
Zack Ross, OKR Workshop

Setting OKRs

How frequently you set OKRs is one of the areas you might modify. The default answer to how often you create OKRs is, of course, quarterly.

One of the chief virtues of the model is this rapid rhythm, which ensures enhanced communication and learning throughout each twelve-week period. However, quarterly may not represent the most fitting cadence for your business. Sadly, not all organizations recognize this inherent malleability of the model and we’re aware of some that have abandoned OKRs because they falsely believed they must be set each quarter.

John Doerr – Set OKRs

Let’s read what John Doerr, who you’ll recall introduced OKRs to Google, has to say on the topic:

The key for any team or any group is that you use this on a regular basis. You should pick what frequency is right for you. When Intel was doing them monthly National Semiconductor did them every four weeks so they had thirteen periods in their manufacturing year because they were primarily a manufacturing company…and that was right for their culture. Most companies are quarterly, but some of the more agile firms are saying no, we want to line them up with our sprints or our development schedules. A quarter is too long. Instead of every twelve weeks I’m going to set the timeframe to be every six weeks. Some places choose to do them quarterly and in parallel annually. So I’ve got a set of annual OKRs and then some quarterly ones that I update along the way as well.

As Doerr correctly notes, the key is using OKRs on a regular basis, but of course the word regular may take on a different meaning for you than other companies. He also notes that some organizations will use a combination of both annual and quarterly OKRs. We call this a dual cadence approach.

Dual Cadence

Within organizations using a dual cadence, the company defines a set of annual OKRs and typically breaks this down into a set of OKRs for each quarter. Teams may then create an annual and quarterly set of OKRs or decide to set OKRs only for the upcoming quarter. Among the benefits of the dual cadence is the aid of context provided by establishing annual OKRs. Teams and individuals then possess a direct line of sight from their own OKRs to what the company wishes to realize during the year. In this way, an organization is balancing long-term (annual) strategic priorities with the quarterly victories necessary to meet them. Dual cadence is just one option; there are many others, again depending on the situation in which you find yourself.

What matters most, to quote Doerr’s cogent guidance one more time, is using OKRs on a regular basis.

For more information contact Zack Ross with your OKR questions or click here for more workshop details.

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