A Starting Guide to Navigate the OKR Cycle with Your Team

OKR Cycle

Many organizations struggle with setting up an OKR cycle that works for them. It can feel disconnected from your strategic plan, leaving you wondering how your daily tasks contribute to the bigger picture.

But what if you could design an OKR cycle that perfectly aligns with your team’s needs? This blog is your guide to building a customized cycle that gets results.

We’ll break down the ideal stages of an OKR cycle, proven strategic steps, realistic examples, and actionable tips to make this process more impactful.

OKR Cycle

What is the OKR Cycle?

The OKR cycle is the recurring process of setting, tracking, and reviewing OKRs within an organization. It typically spans a defined period, such as a quarter or a year.

The cycle begins with establishing objectives and key results, followed by regular progress tracking, and concludes with a review and reflection on outcomes achieved.

This iterative process enables you to adapt and refine business goals and strategies over time, driving continuous improvement and alignment toward overall company objectives.

Teams frequently evaluate and modify OKRs to maintain their focus and flexibility. For instance, a software company could establish a goal to enhance user engagement and outline key outcomes like boosting app retention rates by 20% and increasing daily active users by 15% within a three-month period. 

Why do we need the OKR Cycle?

OKR Cycles are like progress trackers for goals. They break down big goals into achievable chunks (quarters) with regular check-ins.

This keeps everyone focused and adaptable, allowing for adjustments along the way. It’s like training with milestones – essential to reach your goals!

The OKR cycle might seem repetitive at first glance, but it’s actually what makes it so powerful. Let’s break it down:

Imagine you’re building a new product. 

  1. Define Strategy: You figure out the big picture – what problem are you trying to solve, and why is it important? This sets the direction.
  2. Identify Strategic Key Results: These are the high-level metrics that tell you if your strategy is working. Like hitting a specific revenue target or customer growth rate.
  3. Businesses and Teams Set OKRs: Now, everyone translates that strategy into actionable goals (Objectives) and measurable results (Key Results) for their specific areas.
  4. Solution Hypotheses: Based on those OKRs, teams brainstorm potential solutions to achieve them. These are just ideas at this point.
  5. Discovery Work: Instead of diving headfirst into building something massive, the cycle encourages focused research and testing (discovery). This could involve user interviews, prototypes, or small-scale experiments.
  6. Discovery/Delivery: Based on what you learn in discovery, you can refine your solution or even pivot entirely. Then, you actually build and deliver the features or initiatives needed to achieve your OKRs.
  7. Quarterly Check-In: This is crucial. You review progress, see how well your OKRs are tracking, and adjust as needed. The market might have shifted, your understanding might have evolved – the cycle allows for course correction.
  8. The Cycle Repeats: Here’s the magic. You’ve gained valuable insights, so the next round of OKR setting is better informed. You’re constantly learning, adapting, and getting closer to your strategic goals.

Think of it like this: You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint (strategy), checking the foundation (discovery), and adjusting the design as needed (check-in).

What are the different phases of the OKR Cycle?

OKR cycle is a continuous process, but there are some key phases throughout the quarter where specific actions take place. Let’s walk through them to give you a better idea of the rhythm:

Phase 1: Pre-quarter (4-6 weeks before the year ends)

Planning time: Leadership starts brainstorming the big-picture OKRs for the company and the upcoming year. They’ll consider things like strategic goals, market trends, and resource availability.

Phase 2: Pre-quarter (2-3 weeks before the year ends)

Finalizing and communicating: With a draft in hand, leadership finalizes the annual and upcoming quarter’s OKRs. This is the time to get everyone on board by clearly communicating these goals across the organization.

Phase 3: Pre-quarter (1 week before the year ends)

Team Brainstorming: Now it’s your team’s turn! Based on the company OKRs, your team can brainstorm their own goals for the quarter. This is a great time to get everyone involved and feeling invested in the process.

Phase 4: Start of the quarter (2 weeks into the cycle)

Drafting and alignment: This is where your coaching skills come in! Guide your team to refine their OKRs, ensuring they’re clear, ambitious, and measurable.

Then comes the OKR alignment phase – encourage your team to connect their goals with other teams to ensure everyone’s rowing in the same direction.

Phase 5: Mid-quarter (6 weeks into the cycle)

Tracking progress: The OKRs aren’t set in stone! Schedule check-ins around the halfway point to see how progress is going.

Are you on track? Are there any roadblocks? This is a good time to make adjustments and keep everyone motivated.

Phase 6: Pre-quarter End (3 weeks before the quarter ends)

Review and adjustments: As the quarter winds down, take a step back and assess progress. Are you likely to achieve your OKRs?

If not, this is the time to refine your strategies or adjust the KRs to better reflect reality.

Phase 7: Quarter End (1 week before the quarter ends)

Final review and learning: Time to reflect! Hold a retrospective to discuss what worked well, what didn’t, and what you learned as a team.

Then comes the final OKR reporting and review – did you achieve them? Celebrate successes and identify areas for improvement.

End of the Quarter

Transition and planning: With the quarter wrapped up, it’s time to use the learnings from the retrospective to inform the next cycle.

This is where the cycle truly becomes continuous – you’re constantly iterating and improving your OKR implementation.

What are the steps of the OKR Cycle?

The OKR cycle is about setting ambitious goals (Objectives) and tracking progress with measurable results (Key Results). Let’s break it down into steps to make it super clear to you:

Step 1: Announce organizational priorities 

Leadership sets the direction for the company, outlining the key priorities for the upcoming quarter. Think of it as the North Star – it guides everyone in the same direction.

Step 2: Team OKR drafting 

Now it’s your team’s turn! Based on the announced priorities, your team will brainstorm and draft their OKRs.

Here’s a tip: encourage them to be ambitious but also realistic. Remember, OKRs should be a stretch goal, not a walk in the park.

Step 3: Alignment workshop 

Get all the teams together to share their drafted OKRs. This helps identify any gaps or overlaps, ensuring everyone’s rowing in the same direction.

It’s also a great opportunity to see how individual team goals contribute to the bigger organizational objectives.

Step 4: OKR kick-off 

Once everyone’s on the same page, it’s time for the official launch! This kick-off meeting gets everyone pumped and focused on achieving those OKRs.

Make it engaging – share the company’s vision, explain how each team’s OKRs contribute, and get everyone excited about the challenge ahead.

Step 5: Regular Updates and check-ins

OKRs aren’t set in stone. Things change, priorities shift – that’s okay! 

Schedule regular check-ins with your team to track progress, discuss roadblocks, and make adjustments as needed. This keeps everyone accountable and ensures they’re on track.

Step 6: Retrospective and review

As the quarter wraps up, it’s time to reflect. Hold a retrospective to discuss what worked well, what didn’t, and what you learned.

Then, review each OKR and see how much progress was made. Did you achieve them? Why or why not? This is valuable information to take forward to the next OKR cycle.

Can you provide me with an example of the OKR Cycle?

Imagine you consult for a growing e-commerce company. Their sales team has ambitious goals for the upcoming quarter, and you can help them translate those goals into actionable OKRs.

Here’s a possible example:

Objective: Become the leading provider of sustainable home goods in our region. (This is the big-picture goal they want to achieve)

Key Result 1: Increase market share of sustainable home goods by 10% compared to last quarter. (This is a measurable way to track progress on the objective)

  • Initiatives: Launch a targeted marketing campaign highlighting the environmental benefits of their products.
  • Initiatives: Partner with eco-conscious influencers to promote their sustainable product lines.

Key Result 2: Achieve a 20% conversion rate on traffic from sustainability-focused websites. (This is another measurable result that ties back to the objective)

  • Initiatives: Develop dedicated landing pages showcasing their sustainable product lines.
  • Initiatives: Offer exclusive discounts or promotions for visitors coming from these sustainability websites.

Throughout the quarter

  • The sales team closely monitors both Key Results. They might see the market share increase steadily, but the conversion rate from sustainability websites lags behind.
  • This is where your coaching comes in! You can suggest the team analyze the landing pages and tailor messaging to resonate better with that specific audience.

End of the Quarter

  • The team reviews their OKRs. Did they hit their target market share increase? Maybe they exceeded it! But what about the conversion rate? Did they reach 20%?
  • The retrospective focuses on learnings: What resonated with the broader market regarding sustainability? How can they further optimize their messaging for that specific website audience?

Next Cycle

Building on the learnings, the sales team refines their OKRs for the next quarter. They might set a more ambitious market share target while focusing on improving conversions from sustainability websites.

They could even add a Key Result specifically focused on brand awareness within the sustainable home goods space.

How can we achieve the best OKR Cycle in our organization? 

These steps will help your teams create a specific OKR cycle that aligns well with your culture, workflows, and business goals.

Step 1: Address the issue of ‘why’

Think about it as, what are your biggest challenges right now? Is it a lack of focus across teams? Are you struggling to measure progress toward strategic goals? Maybe communication and alignment are a hurdle.

Once you pinpoint the “why,” it becomes easier to tailor your OKR framework to address those specific issues. For example, if the focus is the problem, setting clear, ambitious objectives with measurable key results can be a game-changer.

Here’s the thing: OKRs aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But by understanding your unique needs and goals, you can create a framework that truly drives results for your organization.

Here’s a real-life example: Let’s say you run a software development company. You might be facing issues with product development timelines slipping. In this case, your “why” for OKRs could be to improve development efficiency.

Now, with a clear “why,” you can tailor your OKRs to address that specific challenge. An objective could be “Enhance development team collaboration,” with measurable key results like “Increase code reviews by 20%” or “Reduce bug count in an initial release by 15%.”

Step 2: Plan the OKRs in advance

This ensures your company’s strategic objectives are cascaded down effectively, aligning all teams towards the same vision. Advanced planning also fosters collaboration by allowing departments to discuss dependencies and roadblocks, preventing silos and ensuring a more cohesive effort. 

Additionally, dedicated planning time allows for setting realistic goals based on data and market trends, keeping teams motivated. Finally, involving key players in the goal-setting process from the beginning fosters a sense of ownership and buy-in, leading to a more transparent and engaged workforce throughout the OKR cycle. 

In short, planning isn’t about micromanagement but creating a clear roadmap for success through strategic alignment, collaboration, realistic goal setting, and a more engaged workforce.

For example, you’re the CEO of a language-learning app company. Your goal is to be the top app for business professionals by year’s end. 

Without pre-planning OKRs, your marketing team might target general brand awareness, the product might develop features for casual learners, and sales might aim for a generic download increase. These goals sound good on paper, but they aren’t strategically aligned.

However, with pre-planning, you can bring your teams together. They can then discuss the need for business-focused content and features. 

This might lead to marketing targeting business professional awareness, product developing business communication features, and sales focusing on downloads from business users. By planning in advance, you ensure everyone’s efforts work together towards the same strategic objective.

Step 3: Let everyone on the team know the objectives

Hold a company-wide town hall to explain the company’s vision and how objectives connect to that vision. Cascade objectives down to departments and individuals, ensuring alignment with company goals. 

Dedicate team meeting time to discuss objectives and answer questions. Visualize objectives and their connections using charts or mind maps to create a clear picture. 

Finally, make objectives readily available on a shared platform for ongoing reference and discussion. By ensuring everyone understands the “why” behind the objectives, you’re setting the stage for a successful OKR cycle.

Let’s use brand awareness as an example. As a marketing director, you’d explain the company’s desire to expand its customer base in a company-wide town hall, highlighting the importance of brand awareness. 

Departmental goals, like increasing social media followers and website traffic, would then be cascaded down. Team OKR meetings unpack how individual objectives, like a social media manager aiming for more Twitter followers, contribute to departmental goals.

A visual map ties everything together, and a shared platform keeps everyone informed and fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels accountable for achieving the overall brand awareness objective.

Step 4: Invest additional time

Dedicating more time upfront to workshops and refining OKRs ensures they’re well-defined and aligned with your strategy. Regular check-ins and in-depth communication keep everyone on track and allow for adjustments. 

Analyzing progress data throughout the cycle reveals valuable insights for improvement in future iterations. Remember, the goal isn’t to spend endless hours but to ensure the time invested translates to a high-performing OKR framework for your organization.

For instance, Take a marketing team at a growing software company. Their initial website traffic growth OKR of “20% increase” was vague. 

To rectify this, they invested extra time. First, a workshop with sales, product, and engineering helped define “qualified traffic” crucial for conversions. 

This led to a refined OKR targeting a 30% increase in qualified traffic from organic search, measured by lead generation. This clarity and alignment across departments ensured everyone was on the same page. 

Regular check-ins throughout the quarter revealed an unexpected rise in unqualified traffic. They adapted their strategy, focusing on content for their ideal customer profile. 

By investing more time upfront and continuously monitoring progress, the team not only achieved their traffic goal but surpassed it with a focus on qualified leads, ultimately boosting conversions.

Step 5: Seek inspiration from OKR examples

Don’t underestimate the power of peeking behind the curtain at successful OKR implementations! Studying examples from other organizations can be a game-changer for your OKR cycle. 

It allows you to benchmark your ambition level against industry leaders, discover creative ways to structure your OKRs, and even spark ideas for initiatives that support your specific goals. 

Resources like company blogs, industry publications, and websites like Peoplebox or Weekdone offer various OKR examples across various sectors. But remember, the key is to adapt, not imitate. Use these examples as inspiration, tailoring them to your unique company goals and culture to achieve the best OKR cycle possible.

For instance, Imagine you’re leading a customer success team for a SaaS company and want to boost customer retention. OKR examples can be a goldmine! You might find a competitor aiming for a 5% churn reduction, giving you a benchmark for your own goal. 

Additionally, an example could showcase a broader Objective like “Become the #1 choice for customer success,” with specific key results like “Increase customer satisfaction score by 10%” or “Reduce support tickets by 20%.” 

This structure can inspire your own. Finally, reading about another company’s success with a customer onboarding boot camp might spark an idea to develop your own program, reducing churn.

Step 6: Opt for an event-driven process to structure the OKR cycle

Leveraging events can supercharge your OKR cycle. Imagine a company kick-off setting the strategic direction, followed by cascading goal-setting sessions where teams translate that vision into actionable OKRs. 

Mid-cycle check-ins keep everyone on track, and celebratory events mark achievements and fuel learning. Bonus points for innovation workshops that spark creative solutions. 

This event-driven approach keeps things dynamic, encourages ownership, and allows for adjustments as you go! Make these events informative, collaborative, and impactful, and you’ll be well on your way to an OKR cycle that drives results.

For example, Imagine a Fintech startup. Their CEO rallies the team at a kick-off event, outlining their vision to conquer the millennial neo-banking market in India. 

Inspired product teams translate this vision into actionable OKRs during cascading goal-setting sessions. Their objective? Launch a top-rated mobile app with robust security. 

Measurable key results might be a 4.7-star app store rating and a 70% reduction in security breaches. Mid-cycle check-ins keep them on track. 

Progress on the rating looks good, but security breaches identified during a collaborative discussion require additional testing. The cycle concludes with a celebratory event acknowledging the app’s launch and stellar rating. 

They also share learnings from the security challenges, fostering continuous improvement. To further ignite innovation, they might even hold an OKR hackathon to craft the smoothest money transfer experience.

This event-driven approach keeps the startup aligned, motivated, and constantly learning – propelling them towards their ambitious vision.

Step 7: Expect challenges during the OKR cycle and embrace them

Challenges are a natural part of any OKR cycle, but they can actually be springboards for growth if you approach them with the right mindset. You can brainstorm solutions upfront with the leadership team by anticipating potential roadblocks like data access or team alignment issues. 

Regular check-ins with teams, whether informal or structured, will help identify and address hurdles early on. And remember, sometimes detours lead to the best discoveries!

If an OKR needs adjustment due to a market shift, view it as an opportunity for agility and celebrate your team’s ability to adapt. 

Most importantly, let’s embrace a learning mindset. Document what went wrong and how you overcame challenges, then share those learnings across the organization to prevent similar bumps in the future.

After all, ambitious OKRs are meant to stretch us, and by expecting challenges and having a plan to tackle them, you’ll be setting your organization up for a truly successful OKR cycle.

For instance, Take a marketing team aiming for a 30% website traffic increase in a quarter – ambitious, but that’s the OKR spirit! Anticipating challenges, they might foresee limitations in their current analytics. 

Proactive solutions, like investing in a new OKR software, are discussed upfront. Regular check-ins reveal content fatigue mid-quarter. The team embraces this detour, adjusting their strategy towards video content based on team feedback. 

An unexpected competitor launch throws a curveball, but it also drives traffic! The team celebrates this detour, capitalizing on the opportunity to capture leads and refine messaging. Throughout, they maintain a learning mindset. 

Challenges like limited analytics and content fatigue are documented, along with solutions like the new tool and video focus. These learnings are then shared across departments to boost future campaigns. 

By embracing challenges, the team doesn’t just survive the bumps. They learn, adapt, and potentially surpass their initial 30% target. This is the power of transforming challenges into fuel for a successful OKR cycle.

How can I choose an OKR Cycle?

To select an OKR Cycle, identify your organization’s overarching objectives. Then, break them down into minor, measurable key results that indicate progress. 

Consider the timeframe for achieving these goals, typically quarterly. Ensure alignment across teams and departments to foster collaboration. 

Select a method for tracking and reviewing OKRs regularly to adapt strategies as needed. Lastly, communicate the chosen OKR Cycle clearly to everyone involved to ensure understanding and buy-in. 

For instance, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The best OKR cycle length depends on your company’s needs. Here’s how to think about it:

Imagine you run a clothing company.

Yearly OKRs: Perfect for long-term strategic goals like increasing brand awareness or entering a new market. These goals take time to achieve and provide a steady north star.

But what about the latest fashion trends? Quarterly OKRs are ideal for those!

Quarterly OKRs: These let you react quickly to changing customer preferences. You could set OKRs for launching a new product line based on a hot new trend, or perhaps improving your online shopping experience based on customer feedback.

Here’s the key: Many companies use a dual cadence approach.

  • You have your yearly OKRs that set the overall direction.
  • Then, you have quarterly OKRs that break down those yearly goals into achievable milestones and allow you to adapt to changing market conditions.

For example, your yearly OKR might be to increase online sales by 20%. Your quarterly OKRs could then focus on specific initiatives to achieve that, like launching a user-friendly mobile app or running targeted social media campaigns for a new collection.

Think of it like this: You have your long-term destination (yearly OKRs), but you must also adjust your route based on real-time traffic conditions (quarterly OKRs).


Remember, the key to success with OKRs is to stay agile. Don’t be afraid to adjust your OKRs throughout the cycle as needed.

Schedule regular check-ins with your team to discuss progress and roadblocks. This encourages open communication and helps you stay on track.

An OKR cycle isn’t just about achieving goals; it’s about the learning journey. By reflecting on your progress throughout the cycle, you’ll gain valuable insights to propel your team forward in the next cycle and beyond.

If you want to accelerate your OKR implementation and cut some learning curve, you can take the help of JOP’s OKR Consultants.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can OKRs be monthly?

Yes, OKRs can be set on a monthly basis, although they are more commonly set quarterly.

2. Can OKRs be annual?

Yes, OKRs can be set annually, but they may lack the agility and adaptability of shorter-term cycles like quarterly or monthly.

3. Should OKRs be quarterly or yearly?

OKRs are typically set quarterly for better adaptability and focus, but they can also be set yearly for longer-term planning.

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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