Jul 22, 2020

Why +10% may not be a good key result for your OKR goals

Objective key results, or short OKR, is a concept that is easy to understand but hard to master:
You set an objective, such as "Increase user base", and define three key results, such as "Boost logins from 1% to 1,4%" or "Increase form submissions on the homepage by 10%". Easy peasy. But wait. It is easy to set a number, but what does that "+10%" mean exactly? And is it a good key result?

The 10% increase has to be something that you personally or your team can achieve. You want to rule out external reasons, such as seasonal factors or growth over the years or a special influencer such as Covid-19.

Let's take the "10% more form submissions" as an example and analyze it. Let's assume the following:

  • Your website sells medical equipment, a form submission is a request for quotation
  • The form is on a page that your team controls
  • There are dedicated teams for SEO, SEA and on-site marketing
  • Your company is growing
  • The OKR is for Q2 2020 (April - June)
  • Your total numbers of form submissions indeed increased from 1000 to 1100 (compared to the quarter before)

Was the "10% more" a good key result? Can you make sure that your team is solely responsible for the increase?

We can come up with several (hypothetical) reasons that could justify a "No, probably that was not a good key result!":

  • Medical operators might always buy more equipment in Q2 than in Q1
  • The total market for medical equipment grows, so a year-over-year comparison does not make sense as you just profit from the general uplift
  • SEO, SEA, on-site marketing do a great job and drive more traffic to your site which leads to more form submissions
  • Covid drives online purchases and destroys all comparisons

So the "10% more" key result is not specific enough as it does not define something that can be easily attributed to you.

So, which alternative key results do you have for the same goal ("Increase form submissions")?

  • Increase the conversion (= visit to form submission) from 0.2% to 0.4% per session: no matter how many or how few visitors you get, you need to convert them. This means total responsibility.
  • Increase form submissions by 10% with AB tests on all elements that lead to form submissions: you compare two situations that you are responsible for and improve your implementation. (Just be cautious: Not all elements are equal. If you have a small button at the very end of your page that only converts in 0.1% of the sessions, the 10% increase is worth way less than a 1% converting element).

The takeaway: Numbers are easy to set, but as both the goal setter and OKR manager, you need to dig deeper. What does "+x%" or "From x to y" really mean? Can the result be achieved by and attribute to the goal setter? Write down all your questions and objections and discuss this before setting a key result with a fancy number.

Categories: Product