We are often asked how to write objectives, and it’s completely understandable. When I joined Jell a couple of months ago I wondered the same thing.

But it turns out, writing objectives and key results isn’t difficult.

Here’s a video to help:

For getting started with OKRs, you have to know what your end goals are. What do you want/need to accomplish in order to move forward?

For an engineering team, it might be creating a mobile app for a product. For a marketing team, it probably means getting more traffic, conversions, or higher average sale.

For example let’s assume you want to increase Daily Active Users for your company’s product from 300 per day to 9000 over the course of 6 months, or 2 quarters.

Aside note: Generally, a founder or investor has come up with this goal, but everyone should know how to write objectives because all employees should have them.

Break the goal up into objectives and key results over the course of 2 quarters. For the first quarter, you want to get to 4500 users, which means greatly increasing usage over the next 3 months.

Objective: Increase daily active users

How to Write Objectives: Suggestions from Experts

It’s important to note that not all objectives will have a numerical value, objectives can be more general. Though, all key results will include a number, as Marissa Mayer suggests.

John Doerr, who implemented OKRs at Google, actually uses a formula to write objectives and key results. He uses this statement:

I will ___ as measured by ___.

So we can actually write our objective as:

I will increase daily active users as measured by 4500 people using the app every business day.

Since most objectives have multiple key results, we can extend this sentence by adding other measurements. These additions must pertain to the objective already listed.

For example, these:

  • I will increase daily active users as measured by getting 10,000 website installs each month.
  • I will increase daily active users as measured by increasing website traffic to 20,000 visits per month.

Let’s look at another example.

An Example for Human Resources

You work in HR and have 500 employees. In past positions you’ve found that improving employee sentiment has directly impacted turnover rates and employee referrals.

Over the next year, you’ve been given the task of rolling out employee NPS surveys and establishing it at an acceptable market average of 38.

Your objective and key results:

You will implement NPS as measured by

  • getting 400 employees to answer the first survey
  • working with 23 managers to relay the importance of the employee survey and
  • hosting 1 employee event displaying overlooked benefits for the company.

**As you can see, writing objectives and key results comes down to breaking up your goal into actionable steps with clear numerical goals.**

Another important aspect you should know about how to write objectives is each employee will have multiple objectives.

In HR this could mean another objective of:

Objective: Help employees take advantage of benefits

  • Key Result: Get 20% more employees to sign up for 401K contributions
  • Key Result: Send 2 monthly emails outlining popular benefits that should be taken advantage of, such as discounts or memberships
  • Key Result: Host quarterly benefits workshop where you educate and assist employees in signing up or using benefits

Another way to think of John Doerr’s formula is:

I want to ____(objective)____. I can do this by ____(key results)____.

Write OKRs By Breaking Goals Into Quarterly Objectives

okr templates

It’s common for a lot of companies to have yearly goals, even monthly goals, so one adjustment you may need to make with the OKR approach is using quarterly goals to keep you on track throughout the year. This isn’t difficult.

Let’s pick up your goal for an NPS of 38 by the end of the year. In the first quarter, your objective is to get a baseline score. We will assume your company gets at least a 20 for the first survey. That means to hit your year-end goal of 38 you need to make up 18 points.

So in quarter two, your objective might be to hit 26, then 32 in the third quarter, and 38 in the last.

But keep in mind that you might also want to set stretch goals in each objective or key result so that you have room for missing your goal. This is common with OKRs, as many companies follow the thinking that OKRs will be hit 70-80% of the time.

Use A Tool To Set OKRs

It might be difficult to write OKRs when you can’t visualize a system to do it. But you can use a tool to help you set and monitor OKRs overtime.

This will give you the mental reminders and dedicated place to look at your goals, edit them (if needed), plan for the future, and see where you stand in respect to your quarterly objectives. Additionally, we offer a free OKR template here. 

Wrap Up: Things to Keep in Mind About How to Write Objectives & Key Results

  • Use John Doerr’s formula: I will ___ as measured by ___.
  • Remember that all key results should include a number.
  • Everyone on your team should know how to write OKRs.
  • Each team member will have multiple Objectives, and multiple Key Results (up to 4) per Objective.
  • Write OKRs by breaking up year long goals.
  • Overestimate your OKRs.
  • Use a tool to set and monitor OKRs.

Now, you have the tools and knowledge you need to write objectives and key results.

Get started by using Jell to keep track of your OKRs, your goals are waiting.