Setting stretch goals in your organisation is just the start. To get real value out of the process, you need to measure performance against these goals. Keeping score and understanding your score is for more than just assessing an employee’s performance. It also assists in optimising performance, knowing when to change course, highlighting wins to celebrate, creating appropriate competition to drive your team, and helping engage the emotions of the team.

In the OKR methodology, the Key Results need to be scored. As Objectives are qualitative, measuring the performance of Objectives is often subjective. Key Results, on the other hand, are quantitative and should be objectively verifiable if set correctly. This allows for more objective scoring.

“OKRs give us clear, quantitative targets
on the way to qualitative leaps”

John Doerr, Measure What Matters

To be able to keep score, your team needs to be aligned on its approach to scoring.

Why do we need to align on a scoring system for Key Results upfront?

When first engaging with OKRs, scoring Key Results may seem intuitive and simple. However, as you start scoring after your first OKR cycle, it becomes clear that it’s not that simple. The risk of not fully understanding your scoring approach can mean that targets are not clear, which creates misaligned expectations within teams and hinders your ability to hold people accountable.

There is no one right way of scoring Key Results; you’ll need to find what works for you. The most important thing is that you pick one approach within a team and that this approach is clear. Give it a try for at least two quarters to see if it works – you can always change it later.

Four common approaches to scoring Key Results

A few experts in the OKR field have guided us around different approaches to adopt with regards to scoring – each with its pros and cons. Below is a summary of these approaches as we’ve interpreted them:

  1. The Simple Binary approach

    This process was developed by Christina Wodkte, the author of Radical Focus. She often strives to have one aspirational Key Result and promotes a simple scoring method whereby the Key Result is either achieved or not. The Key Result is set at a 50% confidence level (there is a 50% chance that it’ll be achieved), ensuring that the targets have enough ‘stretch’ in them.

  2. The Google approach

    The book, Measure What Matters, talks about Google’s journey with OKRs. Our interpretation of the approach is that a combination of ‘committed’ and ‘aspirational’ Key Results are set upfront (and it’s noted what each one is). ‘Committed’ Key Results refer to those that are expected to be 100% achieved. ‘Aspirational’ Key Results are expected to stretch the team, and best practice allows for ~70% to be achieved (it’s said that Google does not like you achieving all of your Key Results as you are then guilty of not setting high enough targets). Both ‘committed’ and ‘aspirational’ Key Results are then scored on a scale of 0 to 1. This allows for a standardised process across teams.

  3. The Aspirational with Pre-Scoring approach

    This system was developed by Ben Lamorte, a leader in the OKR field. Our interpretation of this system is that only aspirational Key Results are set and performance is scored with a 0, a 0.3, a 0.7, or a 1.0. The trick with this approach is that you “pre-score” Key Results – as you draft Key Results, you articulate what a ‘commit’ score of 0.3 would look like, what a ‘target’ score of 0.7 would look like, and what an ‘amazing’ score of 1.0 would look like.

  4. The ‘Common’ approach

    Another approach that we see our clients using is a combination of committed and aspirational Key Results that are scored using a metric suitable for that specific Key Result. This means that some Key Results are scored using a binary approach (it is either achieved or not), some are scored using a percentage (to show percentage completed) or some use numeric scoring (contributing towards a target number). Although simple, it doesn’t necessarily create the consistency we’re striving for.

Below is a summary of some of the key elements of the four approaches:

Simple binary approach Google approach* Aspirational with
pre-scoring approach
Common approach

Type of Key Results

Aspirational Committed and aspirational Aspirational, with committed and target levels set Committed and/or aspirational

Probability of success of Key Results (confidence level)

50% Committed – 100%

Aspirational – 50%

10% ‘amazing’, with levels set (‘target’– 50%, ‘committed’ – 90%) Committed – 100%

Aspirational – 50%

Scoring method

Achieved or not achieved (binary) Score between 0 and 1 (0 – no progress made, 1 fully achieved) 0, 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 Progress to date – either percentage, numeric (total defined up front) or binary

Main benefit

SIMPLISTIC STANDARDISED ACROSS TEAMS ENABLES
ALIGNMENT (and therefore accountability)
FLEXIBLE

Main downfall

Demotivating (if you just miss your target) Attracts long lists of binary committed Key Results Requires more work upfront Not consistent across the organisation

* Note: there are varying interpretations of the Google scoring methodology that we’ve heard from different parties. This is one interpretation; if you have any others, please share them with us!

Use a qualitative method in addition to a quantitative measure

Quantitative measures show how you are performing in line with your targets and can be used to assess historical performance and predict performance at the end of the quarter. But these numbers often don’t tell the full story. We have to go beyond the numbers to do this.

We’ve found that implementing qualitative methods – like emojis or colours – are helpful in gauging the softer side of performance. Our view is that this qualitative scoring can be broken up into two parts:

  • Are you confident that you’re on track to achieve your Key Result?
    Confidence scoring during an OKR cycle gives you a sense of where you might end up at the end of the cycle and starts the conversations with your team members around obstacles to be removed or issues to be escalated.
  • Are you happy with your Key Result score?
    While you might have achieved more than 100% of your Key Result, luck might have been on your side. Or you didn’t come close to achieving your Key Result, but you made great progress in a very difficult operating environment that you couldn’t predict when setting your Key Result. This qualitative score allows you to incorporate other factors that are not captured in your result.

While it may seem overly complex and unnecessary detailed to go into the different scoring approaches upfront, through our experience we have found that it is necessary. And it’s something you should be aware of in the initial stages of implementing OKRs.

At the very least, make sure you’re aware of what your committed Key Results are (where you need to achieve 100%), what your aspirational Key Results are and how aspirational they are (so you know what level of achievement is expected).

Please reach out if you’d like to chat more about scoring Key Results.

Resources

  • How to grade your OKRs, Sam Prince, October 2021
  • The OKRs Field Book: A Step-by-Step Guide for Objectives and Key Results Coaches, Ben Lamorte, March 2021
  • Radical Focus, Christina Wodkte, Feb 2015
  • Measure What Matters, John Doerr, June 2018
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