Concrete Tips for Getting Started with OKRs

By now, you’ve likely heard a lot about OKRs—how Google uses them, how other startups are growing because of them—and are ready to use this goal-setting method at your company. Setting aspirational “objectives” and measuring success with specific “key results” can be a very effective way, especially for startups, to open the channels of communication and align teams with overall company objectives.

Problem is, getting started with OKRs can be really challenging at first.

When we began setting objectives and measuring performance at Formstack (where Jell was founded), it took awhile to get comfortable. If you’re adopting OKRs for your team for the first time, the important thing to remember is this:

One size does not fit all.

That means you’re bound to experience some growing pains as you figure out how to implement OKRs at your company. After working through our own learning curve, there are some suggestions I would’ve welcomed at the outset, had another startup CEO shared them with us:

Start Somewhere

At first, the process is likely to feel awkward—perhaps even painful—for most of your team. This is to be expected. It’s best to start small.

Even if you start with one objective and a single key result from each person, it’s better to start small and build from there than to buckle under the weight of figuring out the perfect set of goals.

Review Frequently

There’s no point in having objectives and key results if they’re not integrated into your day-to-day workflows. Too often, a team leader will launch a big, collaborative goal-setting process only to have the whole thing tabled for an entire quarter or year.

By the time you get around to measuring outcomes, it can be difficult to remember why you selected certain objectives in the first place—let alone measure and improve upon them.

Make OKRs something your team is seeing at least every week, and sometimes every day.

Keep Things SMART

This sounds obvious in hindsight, but we had to learn the hard way that people tend to stumble when it’s unclear to them (and everyone else) if goals were actually accomplished.

Keeping OKRs mnemonically specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely can go a long way toward improving communication and motivation.

Think in Themes

For many people, OKRs are initially met with a lot of questions:

What’s a good objective? What should be the key result? Should I play it safe or stretch myself? What’s everyone else choosing?

To help, encourage your team to think of objectives in terms of overarching themes for accomplishment, such as:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Improving morale
  • Expanding product functionality…

…and so on. Once you have the right theme, the key results start to fall into place. We put together an OKR template for you if it helps to see more examples.


At Formstack, OKRs have become a regular part of communications. They power productivity and hold teams together. By regularly setting objectives and making them visible to everyone at the company, it’s become more habit than system; more of a method for accomplishing great things together than being driven by siloed performance reviews and evaluations.

It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, and that’s o.k. Eventually, you’ll hit a groove.

Unite your team with daily standups, make progress visible, and reach goals faster—all in minutes a day.