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[Blog] How to Create High-Quality Objectives

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Objectives are the critical business priorities that provide clear direction, define purpose, and strengthen alignment.

What are Objectives?

Objectives are where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, or the change you want to make. These are short, qualitative descriptions of the business priorities. The level of detail within the Objective should be correlated to the time frame. If this is a 3-5 year Objective, it needs to be the really big picture. If this is a quarterly Objective that supports a “parent Objective,” then having more detail is necessary.


Why This Matters

So many OKR (Objectives & Key Results) Programs get started on the wrong foot - poor Objective creation. Striking the right balance of volume, variety, and strategy is key. When creating Objectives, especially annual ones for the company, thinking very strategically is important. Remember, these are still very much assumptions, but it’s your best bet on what is best for the business. Ensuring coverage across the company’s strategy is important so that everyone in the organization is aligned or inspired by the direction of the business.


How to Write Solid Objectives

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

No need to write 300 Objectives. You can run a 200-person company with 3-5 annual Objectives and then adapt with smaller quarterly Objectives.

Think about it.

If you maxed out “best practices” (i.e., no more than 4 KRs per Objective, no more than 5 Initiatives per Key Result)

5 Objectives x 4 Key Results per Objective = 20 Key Results x 5 Initiatives per Key Result = 100 Initiatives. In a 200-person company, this would be a LOT of execution, which could be a good thing, but if nothing is getting done, it’s probably a bad thing. Finding the optimal level is key.


Collaborate, Debate, and Discuss

The value of Objective creation is the creation process. Meet as a team, debate, and discuss. These should not be written in a vacuum. How your team collaborates or the tools you use to make decisions is up to you, but when you’ve agreed on the right priorities, it’s time to crystalize those Objectives.


Pitfalls to Avoid

Don’t write long-winded Objectives

Writing a super long Objective isn’t necessary. Brevity is the soul of wit. Clear, concise, and compelling messages. The more memorable, inspirational, and motivational, the better. People in your company (or even your customers or board members) should be able to read it and get it Create a tweet, not a thesis. 


Don’t Cascade New Objectives from Key Results. 

Oftentimes, people feel the need to create tons of Objectives and cascade them throughout the organization. This really isn’t necessary with OKRs. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. The purpose of Key Results is to quantify the successful achievement of the Objective in a holistic way. If you start to take existing Key Results and turn those into different Objectives, you’re going to have a mess on your hand. Instead, have your teams look at your Objectives and ask themselves, “how can we contribute to these Objectives?” Maybe it’s as simple as a big Initiative that they assume will make an impact across all the Objectives. Or it could be that the Objective is so big that it needs to be supported by sub-Objectives. Think Objectives and supporting Objectives without redundancy of measurement.

For example.

Big annual Objective of “Successfully build a boatload of pipeline.” This could be simply measured by the number of deals in the pipeline, the value of those deals, and deal velocity. A marketing team potentially could look at this and derive their own Objective of “Support the sales team with marketing attributed activity” as measured by new MQLs, marketing sourced opportunities, and SQL to Opp conversion.

Avoiding redundancy is critical in parallel with keeping it simple.


Key Takeaway

In an OKR program, the Objectives tend to get overlooked because they are the least tangible and they don’t focus on execution, but they are equally important if not the most important. How you define your Objectives is the direction the rest of the organization will go, so don’t overlook or overthink this.


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