There is one thing that each person that approaches us to find out more about using OKRs has in common – they want to find a better way to achieve effective execution. And they have a feeling that OKRs can help.

As human beings, finding more effective ways to do things is part of our inherent nature. Paul Barker, one of our OKR experts, explained in a recent webinar how OKRs speak to this inherent nature of human beings, and how to leverage that.

There are two chemicals in our brain that allow us to execute more effectively over time – adrenaline and dopamine. This combination firstly gets us going, and secondly keeps us going. They work like pistons in a car where the one allows the other one to work effectively.

When our brain releases adrenaline, it gets us going. It’s the drug that gets us out of bed in the morning – it’s released as we respond to inspirational, stressful or exciting situations.

Dopamine is the feel-good drug; it’s a neurotransmitter released when we celebrate achievements, and pushes adrenaline down, causing us to think rationally again.

These two chemicals work in tandem constantly. There is a lot more detail behind the above, but this is the overview.

The OKR methodology leverages the above:

  • An Objective is an inspirational and aspirational goal that you set up to achieve. That goal should release adrenaline when reading it – it’s a moonshot, it’s a BHAG, it’s something that people can get behind and gets them excited. It literally gets them going.
  • Because Objectives are meant to be inspirational and therefore can be fluffy at times, we need to ground it in a set of Key Results linked to the Objective. The Key Results are specific, measurable, and quantitative, and identified through asking the question “how will you know that you have achieved your Objectives?’.
  • At the end of the OKR cycle (quarter, year, etc.), we stop and reflect. This gives us the chance to celebrate our successes which releases dopamine – the feel-good drug. This release of dopamine then gets us into the next cycle of adrenaline as we set our new goals for the next OKR cycle.

This is how adrenaline and dopamine work in tandem within the OKR methodology. It makes the methodology almost beautiful in its simplicity. If you’re looking for an introduction to why OKRs work, this is it. Exploring how OKRs work in practice within your team is a different story – there is a lot of complexity behind the simple introductory explanation, which we can explore with you during one of our OKR engagements.

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