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What Powerlifting taught me about OKRs

So fun fact about myself; I really enjoy lifting weights. I got into the activity right after I graduated from college and it's been one of the constants in my life ever since. I know when some people think of the gym, they think about a bunch of guys doing bicep curls who want to be bodybuilders, but that's not me. I don't care much about wanting to look like the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. For me it's always been about wanting to be as strong as possible. I fell in love with powerlifting. The only thing that really mattered at the end of the training session were the numbers. How much did I lift? How many times did I lift it? What was the training volume? How does that relate to previous sessions? Some folks could say I'm a gym rat, but I prefer the term gym nerd. I love those numbers.

The goal of powerlifting is to get as strong as possible. That strength is measured by three key lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Each of those lifts have an objective measure of success. The deadlift, for example, is simple. Pick the weight up off the ground and stand up with it. You either stand up or you don't. How do I know if I'm getting stronger? I test my one rep max in those particular lifts and compare it to the last time I tested myself. If that number has gone up, then my training has been successful. If it hasn't, or more likely, it has, but it's not as big of an increase as I'd like to see, then I know I need to make some adjustments to my training routine.

So what does all this meat head stuff have to do with manufacturing and operational excellence? It shows the importance of objectives and key results. OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a term that was initially coined by Andy Grove during his time at Intel in the 1980's. An OKR starts with an Objective and then one or more Key Results that can be measured and tracked to see if that Objective is being accomplished or not. The goal of OKR is to help organizations create initiatives and strategies that guide them to achieving their goals.

John Doerr, who started at Intel and went on to invest in Amazon and Google defines the formula for OKRs as

"I will______, by achieving_______"

So in the example above, my objective is to get as strong as I can. My key results that let me know how close or far I am to achieving that objective would be testing days built into the training cycle. Are those test numbers going up or down? Then I can adjust my programming and training to reflect that.

In a business setting, an objective might be to "grow our online presence." A couple of key results for that could be:

-Have an increase in website traffic, by 75% over the next 6 months.

-Have an increase in social media following by 100% over the next 6 months.

With those key results in mind, initiatives could be established with the goal of achieving those results.

Another objective could be, "increase our product quality."

Key results could be:

-Decrease defects by 30% in the next quarter.

-Decrease warranty claims by 50% over the next 6 months.

Your team would then create initiatives to meet those Key Results.

OKRs are a powerful tool for goal setting that can be used across your organization. They take a goal or objective and break it into concrete measurable activities that your team can engage in to achieve success.

So what objectives do you and your team have for this year? What key results have you created to help you get there? Let us know in the comments!

We'll be exploring more about OKRs over the next few weeks. Make sure you subscribe to our blog so you never miss a post.

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