Does it KLAPS?👏 An OKR Rubric

by @dsilverstein on February 22, 2021

Also shared on medium.

Archery target with arrows of varying accuracy

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are everywhere in the tech industry. Teams set them. Execs love them. Job postings mention them. A few colleagues of mine have even created “personal OKRs.” They are an effective tool for aligning teams and accomplishing ambitious objectives.

Our company, like many others, has spent countless hours discussing, dissecting, and evaluating OKRs. We have also, like many others, crafted some pretty terrible OKRs.

We’ve chosen objectives that were unattainable, metrics that were impenetrable, and results that looked vastly different than our original objective.

We’ve set some pretty great objectives too — ones that galvanized the team and led us to tremendous results. After dissecting our OKR victories and missteps, we learned the key to our team’s success was choosing the “right metrics.”

Why do metrics matter?

Key Results are where your Objectives come to life. The metrics you choose make all the difference. Choosing a “bad metric” makes your OKR outcomes meaningless.

Confidently measuring progress towards your objectives is key. Without this, team conversations center on poking holes in the metric itself instead of the progress you are (or aren’t) making and what you should do about it.

After years of crafting Key Results, our R&D team has started asking, “does it KLAPS?” This question ensures we aren’t just tracking metrics, we are tracking Key Results.

KLAPS: A rubric for creating reliable KRs

How do we know a Key Result KLAPS? Answering “yes” to these questions ensures we are choosing reliable Key Results.

Known

Is this Key Result something we have discussed and/or done discovery on before? Is this something we can start delivering on right away?

Our OKRs are set quarterly, and quarters go by quickly. If we’ve never thought about this potential Key Result before, it’s unlikely that the R&D team will be able to do discovery and ship solutions in time to see any movement in the metric.

Starting from square one almost always means we won’t deliver solutions in time to see metrics change.

Leading

Is this Key Result a leading indicator (NOT a lagging one)?

This is a trap that is easy to fall into. Many well-known metrics are lagging, like NPS scores. These are not the right metrics to choose for your Key Results.

It’s crucial to see progress and results during the quarter as you work towards your objectives so that you can course-correct when needed. You don’t want to be working blindly all quarter.

Autonomous

Is this Key Result uniquely within the scope of our team?

Cross-team collaboration is crucial to all companies, but for Key Results, it’s never good to rely on things outside of your team’s purview. It is our team that is evaluating, monitoring, and ultimately accountable for our OKRs. We need to ensure that it is fully in our team’s power drive towards our objectives.

Progressive

Will this Key Result tell us if we’re succeeding in making progress towards our objective (and not tell us that we have succeeded)?

Key Results help us measure success towards a larger objective, but we know the work will never be “done.” OKRs should never be binary. They don’t exist to check a box, be a todo list, or consider something complete. They are the incremental steps that bring us closer to fulfilling our company’s mission.

Scoped

Does this Key Result have a narrowly defined scope and/or is catered towards a specific persona or segment?

A defined scope helps us execute on the right things. We can’t boil the ocean in one quarter. Key Results that have an intentional focus help us prioritize the right solutions and channel our efforts in a specific direction.

Choose wisely

OKRs are squishy and hard to conceptualize. Key Results help us translate Objectives into action, and choosing the right metrics is crucial. The KLAPS rubric guides our team towards effective and reliable Key Results.