How to Choose OKRs and Use OKR Dashboards to Understand Progress Toward Goals

Author's avatar Analytics Jul 29, 2022 24 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Setting objectives and their accompanying results can be easy. Achieving those results to meet the objectives? Not so much.

    The key to success, however, is in tracking real-time progress as it helps you keep related individuals and teams accountable and productive.

    Thankfully, an OKR dashboard helps achieve all this and more.

    By visualizing progress, an OKR dashboard shows objectives and results required to achieve set goals, as well as the progress made towards them. As a result, it improves transparency towards OKRs, helps identify bottlenecks, and boosts team accountability and motivation.

    Want to get started with OKRs today? We’ve got a complete rundown of what OKRs are and how to create an OKR dashboard. We also share ways to choose your OKRs based on how other companies are doing so.

    To this end, we talked to 34 companies. 26.5% of them are agencies or consultants in the marketing, digital, or media field and 26.5% are in the B2B services or products industry. The remaining 47% are in the B2C services or products industry.

    Here’s what we’ll cover today:


    What Is an OKR in Business?

    Objectives and key results are the measurable goals businesses set up. The objective is the goal needed to achieve and key results are the parameters of tracking progress.

    Put this way, you’ll see that OKR is a goal-setting framework. Instead of pointing out what goals are important in a quarter, the OKR framework goes a step ahead and notes down what results to achieve.

    For instance, a sales team’s objective could be to increase customers by 25%. Its results to accomplish could be: increasing marketing leads by 10%, increasing sales leads by 15%, and growing customer retention by 15%.

    There are five main types of OKRs. “There could be more, but let’s not get carried away,” says Charlie Garcia of WP Dev Shed.

    “The first distinction is between how ambitious the objectives are and how many unknown factors there are about how they will be achieved. We can distinguish between committed and aspirational OKRs using those variables,” Garcia elaborates.

    Based on it, we’ve two types of OKRs:

    • “Committed OKRs: These are the team’s commitments, including a detailed plan (initiatives), resources, and timetable, among other things. There is a well-thought-out strategy for achieving OKRs.
    • Aspirational OKRs: These are high-risk ‘moonshots.’ It’s also difficult to foretell how they’ll turn out. Without a firm plan, these goals will necessitate a lot more experimenting. The second distinction is made according to a timeline or tempo.”

    Three more types of OKRs come from the timing difference. These are:

    • “Strategic Tempo: A high-level aim that is usually set once a year for a year or even longer. A company’s OKR should bring the entire organization together to achieve a few long-term objectives.
    • Tactical Cadence: A quarterly OKR for teams that are established for a shorter period.
    • Operational Cadence: Attained through weekly check-ins (more on that later), which are typically used to track progress on KRs.”

    And for the importance of OKRs, Stephen Light from Nolah Mattress says, “By monitoring OKRs, our teams felt far more engaged in overall business goals.”

    Light also notes, “setting and achieving tangible steps towards significant objectives is an incredibly important employee engagement technique — nebulous goals make for disengaged workforces. Employee engagement is, in turn, key to the success and longevity of any business, and helped us to drive towards our goals more quickly.”

    What is an OKR vs a KPI?

    A key performance indicator (KPI) is a unit of performance measured within a framework. It’s linked to your objectives, helping direct resources where needed.

    Example: Follower count, engagement rate, and reach are all social media KPIs.

    On the other hand, OKRs are the goals with results as the objectives’ performance trackers. OKRs are typically high-level targets aimed at moving a business and its employees forward. 

    Example: Establish company as the industry thought leader in social listening (objective). The results for this could be to increase Twitter thread and LinkedIn content production by 20% and participation in more industry-leading webinars and summits by 15%.

    As for how OKRs and KPIs are related, Light explains the latter plays a role when you’re setting up your OKRs.

    “The KR metrics are actionable and helped us achieve the goal in a concrete way. When creating OKRs, it’s also incredibly helpful to take a look at your KPIs. If you have a specific KPI that’s suffering, you can set an OKR to boost the health of that KPI, should it be important enough to your business.”

    Related: KPIs & OKRs: How to Leverage Both to Improve Your Performance

    What Is an OKR Dashboard and Why Is OKR Reporting Important?

    An OKR dashboard is a visual representation of an organization’s big-picture OKRs. It shows time-bound objectives along with results to achieve.

    For example, an OKR dashboard could feature a company’s 3 quarterly objectives. Since each objective is evaluated using 3-5 results, the dashboard will feature those too.

    From there, an OKR dashboard shows the real-time progress made under the results tabs — visualizing how much progress has been made against each objective.

    Keep in mind, that a dashboard’s job is to make it easy to read progress. It’s why it leverages visualizations like progress bars and performance charts to quickly give an at-a-glance view of the progress made.

    With it being clear what an OKR dashboard is, the question now is: why bother with it?

    An OKR dashboard helps with OKR reporting, which is essential for making sure work is being done to achieve an organization’s defined objectives.

    Take it from Terakeet’s Patrick Lane who shares, “The ability to monitor our progress and set actionable goals in a dashboard has not only helped improve our department productivity but also helped our team visualize the importance of their weekly tasks while giving leadership greater visibility into our team’s impact.”

    Without OKR reporting, you won’t have a record of work under progress or results achieved against set objectives. As a result, you’re likely to lose focus on the results to hit to accomplish the objective.

    Put simply, OKR reporting provides accountability. It also keeps responsible individuals, teams, and departments aligned on the objectives and results. And it ensures the OKRs are achieved, therefore, serving as an important step in helping accomplish goals.

    How Do You Visualize OKRs?

    The simplest way to visualize OKRs is by dividing the entire dashboard into columns measuring the essentials. You’ll need to add the following columns:

    • Weight: The percentage importance or value of an objective for a business or an individual (if you’re visualizing an employee OKR dashboard)
    • Objective: The key goal itself. These are usually between 3-5 for an individual or an organization for a set time frame.
    • Key result: The results to track for evaluating progress on the objective. Use visualizations like bar charts, stars, progress bars, and sparklines, so it’s easy reading the progress made.
    • Points: These are a final measure of the work achieved, measured from a full score of 100. The final points earned are multiplied by their respective weight to calculate the points earned for an OKR.

    How 9 Businesses Choose OKRS and Use OKR Dashboards

    The business stories that we’ll share in this section come from experts with a strong grip on using OKR dashboards for OKR reporting. In fact, 85% of the respondents we talked to use OKR dashboards.

    OKR dashboards experience

    These people use tools like Google Sheets and Google Data Studio to track their OKRs. As for how many OKRs they track, we learned that most, 47% of the contributors, set 3 OKRs for each team per quarter.

    Number of OKRs per company

    Now for real-life stories of how other businesses are setting their OKRs and using OKR dashboards. Here’s a quick summary:

    1. OKRs based on values, targets, and shared goals
    2. OKRs starting from the end of the funnel
    3. OKRs based on the company vision
    4. OKRs aligned with department goals and individual goals
    5. OKRs by teams and priorities
    6. OKRs by daily action steps
    7. OKRs that reflect the company’s north star
    8. OKRs by industry standards and past performance
    9. OKR by company-wide goal

    But first, a quick note to keep in mind: there’s no one-size-fits-all OKR dashboard. Toby Dao from Tigren opines, “Every organization will have different goals and objectives, and will need to track their progress in different ways.”

    At Tigren, for example, Dao shares, “Personally, I like to set my OKRs annually and quarterly. I think about the most important priorities that I want to achieve in those timeframes and set those as objectives. I set no more than 3 objectives at the same time though [as I] don’t want to spread myself too thin.”

    “Then, I’ll set 3-5 key results to each objective and make sure that they are measurable,” Dao continues. “After that, it’s only a matter of breaking those annual OKRs down and setting OKRs for the next quarter. After the execution of each quarter, I’ll review the data, grade myself on each OKR, see if I need to change anything, and set OKRs for the next quarter.”

    Now for the meaty part, set OKRs in the following ways:

    1. OKRs based on values, targets, and shared goals

    For creating an OKR dashboard based on these factors, you need to first have full clarity on what you stand for, what goals are most important to your business, and what your targets are in a given time frame.

    Here’s what the process looks like at Novo Resume according to Andrei Kurtuy: “While creating OKRs for my website, I started by planning out my goals and writing down my targets. That helped me in having a clear vision regarding the website and the direction I wanted to take.”

    “After that, I consulted with the people who were going to work with me and kept on revising the goals as people added more,” Kurtuy adds.

    “Moreover, I also took out time to identify the values I wanted to instill in my employees and my business so I could plan accordingly. However, I made sure to set OKRs that were achievable and would be feasible for the entire team, so we do not get demotivated down the journey.”

    “As for metrics for our OKRs, I believe one should set numeric measurables, so it is easier to evaluate if the team was able to achieve the results or not. For example, to maintain a high retention rate among my employees, I measured employee satisfaction using the number of tasks completed by people and the objective surveys that were circulated around the office regularly.”

    And, finally, Kurtuy shares, “I have also created a dashboard that can be accessed by different people so we can all track our OKRs and hold each other accountable.”

    Two takeaways from this for setting OKRs based on a business’s vision and targets:

    • Write down your vision, values, and targets instead of making a mental list. This gives you a better grip on your values and priorities. It also makes it easy to reference them in the future as you revise or revisit your OKRs.
    • Don’t set lofty, unrealistic goals. Doing so is the recipe for demotivating employees as those goals are unachievable by their very nature. To avoid this, collaborate with your team. Learn their past performance and set OKRs based on them.

    This last point is how the OKR setting process works at Lightico too. Their team sets different levels of OKRs — company level, followed by team and individual level OKRs.

    “Before we set our team’s and individual’s OKRs, they are first put into a framework of Annual and Quarterly Company level OKRs,” writes Howard Schulman.

    “These are set on the company strategy level (Board, C-level) with employee suggestions, feedback, and input. Based on Company level ORKs, individual departments set OKR with the team, reflecting on previous Quarters and discussions around big but achievable and predictable goals.”

    2. OKRs starting from the end of the funnel

    Another approach to defining OKRs is by starting at the end of the funnel. This happens at Dragon God Inc, as Jonathan Green shares.

    “Our OKRs start from the end of our funnel. We know that our most valuable metric is a new subscriber joining the email list. Once they join the email list, they enter our product cycle, and we have a clear CLV (customer lifetime value.) Thus, our most important metric (Key Result) is a visitor or social media following becoming a subscriber.”

    “Our social media manager has an objective to post 20 pieces of repurposed content from our video channels and podcast every single week,” Green explains further.  

    “And we then check some intermediary metrics such as followers, likes, and subscribes, but the only metric that we care about on a system-wide level is new email subscribers. So a post that gets poor engagement but more subscribers is a win for us.”

    “It’s very common for people to get excited by metrics that don’t have a financial value,” notes Green. “Who doesn’t want more social media followers? Putting this OKR in place ensures that we are tracking a metric that directly correlates with company profit rather than a distraction.”

    “We track the source of every subscriber using Google Tag Manager so that we can see not only where a new subscriber comes from, but we can also track the source of every purchase to see if subscribers from one source are spending more than from another. Being fastidious with our data has led to 7x growth over the past two years.”

    3. OKRs based on the company vision

    This type of OKR setting ensures you’re taking the steps to achieve your company vision. It’s the way an OKR dashboard is created at 360Learning.

    Robin Nichols from the team talks about it. “At the beginning of the year, the company leaders communicate about the wider vision and objectives of the company. This allows team coaches (managers) at the beginning of every quarter to work with their team to suggest OKRs at the individual level.”

    “This process starts about 3 weeks before the start of each new quarter,” Nichols adds. “Collaboratively, individuals suggest OKRs for themselves that cascade down from the team objectives, and ultimately from the company objectives.”

    Nichols continues, “Once each team has a working draft of their OKRs (a week or two later), they will communicate this via Trello (our internal project management tool) to any other teams that might be impacted. This gives all departments a chance to weigh in on everyone’s OKRs, to challenge propositions, to find dependencies, and make sure the overall OKR proposition is coherent.”

    “We also have an Ops team that, at this stage, will review and validate everyone’s OKRs to ensure this alignment with the wider business plan. Once this discussion period is over and the OKRs are finalized, they are communicated on a dedicated Trello board and updated in our OKR dashboard, which is 100% transparent for the entire company to see.”

    “This process is repeated each quarter, and OKR progress is updated practically in real-time in our dashboard and hashed out during a weekly one-to-one meeting with coaches, as well as at monthly interdepartmental syncs.”

    Note that this entire process is collaborative. This way, the company is able to meet its vision and targets while satisfying its employees.

    And for setting up key results, Nichols shares, “Key Results metrics are identified as the quantifiable measure of whether we’re on track to hit a given Objective. So, an Objective might be ‘scale our US blog’, and a Key Result might be ‘increase US organic traffic over the quarter by 20%’.”

    “Again, when setting the KRs, we always need to make sure the numbers add up and align with the bigger team and company goals they flow from. They also need to be ambitious (in line with our ambitious Objectives). If you hit your OKRs 100% every quarter, that means you need to up the challenge.”

    What’s more, for their OKR dashboard, Nichols explains, “Our OKR dashboard (a Google Sheet we’ve formatted to our needs with multiple tabs) is very important. The idea is to provide maximum transparency about everyone, to everyone at the company.”

    “Any employee can check the sheet at any time to understand how their work fits into the wider company objectives, but also how far along any individual or team is in achieving their OKRs. This keeps everyone performing at their best and enables efficiency, and limits blind spots. Our Ops team can also see at a glance if there are any issues or bottlenecks, making it easier for them to troubleshoot,” Nichols sums up.

    360Learning isn’t alone in taking this approach though.

    Stephen Light shares that the Nolah Mattress team also sets up OKRs based on the company vision.

    “We create OKRs by assessing our overall vision for the future of the company, and then identifying the stepping stones to begin traveling towards that future — those stepping stones are the OKRs, the goals that help us reach that hopeful destination.”

    “We especially like to think of OKRs as ideas that will help us get out of any stagnation we might have fallen into, goals that will help us shake things up and improve,” Light explains.  

    As for setting key results metrics, Light points out, “It is a matter of figuring out how you’ll identify that you’re getting there — they’re the tangible actions that will help you achieve the objective you’ve set.”

    “For example, an objective we set for one quarter was to improve our SEO, and a couple of our Key Results were to achieve 20 fresh inbound links from relevant high DR sites and to optimize our site metadata.” 

    4. OKRs aligned with department goals and individual goals

    At Novelty maker, Bill Gao shares that the approach to setting OKRs is based on starting from determining broad objective to figuring out specific OKRs so the entire process ends up becoming actionable.

    “First, the team created overarching OKRs that applied to the entire company. Then each team created specific OKRs that aligned with their department’s goals. Finally, each individual created personal OKRs that aligned with their individual goals,” comments Gao.

    “This process was repeated quarterly in order to ensure that everyone’s goals were always up-to-date and relevant. I set Key Results metrics for the organization by determining what is important to the company and then setting measurable goals that track progress towards those objectives,” Gao adds.

    By taking this approach to setting and monitoring OKRs, Gao outlines, “I was able to achieve results such as increased sales, higher customer satisfaction ratings, and improved employee productivity.”

    Gao observes further, “If you use a dashboard to monitor your OKRs, it can help improve your business by tracking progress and ensuring that everyone is on the same page with their goals. A dashboard can help you set targets, measure performance, and identify areas for improvement.”

    5. OKRs by teams and priorities

    “We went from 1 to 11 OKRs in three years,” shares Marcus Astin from Pala Leather.

    Here’s the OKR setting process this team used: “We created our OKRs in Excel and grouped them by teams, by priorities.”

    “We define our OKRs with specific Key Results and Key Results metrics. We monitor OKRs with a tool called OKR Tree where we can see real-time results,” Astin highlights.

    “We have quarterly and annual reviews too. For example, in Q4, we review quarterly OKRs and set new OKRs. In Q1, we set new OKRs and review our progress. We are in a very fast-moving, high-growth business, so we need to adapt OKRs quarterly, but also, we are in a business where we have a lot of quantitative metrics, so it was easy to set Key Results metrics for our OKRs.”

    “First, management created the overall objectives for the organization. Then, individual teams created objectives that were aligned with the organization’s overall objectives. Finally, each team member created specific goals that were aligned with their team’s objective.”

    This is pretty much similar to the way the team at 360Learning sets OKRs by collaborating with employees. And it helps the Pala Leather team work toward creating achievable goals.

    What’s more, having an OKR system has helped the company “increase clarity of purpose, improve communication and alignment between teams, and increase motivation and accountability.”

    As for an OKR dashboard, it helps give them a quick overview of their business. “It is easy to comprehend and focus on the important metrics with an OKR dashboard,” says Astin.

    “If you use dashboards to monitor our OKRs, then as per my experience, it is a very favorable way to ensure continuous improvement in your business. Further, the data dashboards capture a good picture of the current status of your business and thus provide detailed insights into the opportunities for improvement. This helps the management team to focus on the important areas of improvement.”

    6. OKRs by daily action steps

    Another way to set up OKRs is by breaking them down to the daily initiatives to take.

    Weirdo.Rocks’ Maja Nagelj says this is how they set up and achieve their OKRs. “We create quarterly Objectives and Key Results that support our long-term goals. Usually, we come up with 3-5 Objectives and up to 5 measurable Key Results per Objective. Then, we support each Key Result with the daily initiatives, which help us progress constantly and come closer to the goals.”

    Speaking of how they track progress, Nagelj points out using a Notion OKR dashboard. “We also created a dashboard that we use for monitoring the progress. The essential part of OKRs for us are the weekly accountability calls, where we discuss the progress, update our dashboard, point out any obstacles, and discuss plans for the upcoming week.”

    “It’s a relatively simple process that helps us stay aligned with all business goals, like writing content, SEO efforts, outreach, personal training activities, and health-related goals. We notice the fundamental changes in our progress, as OKRs helped us build essential habits and routines for our daily work and push forward even the more ‘annoying’ tasks.”

    Note that to ensure you’re achieving your set goals, it’s important to track progress using not only a dashboard but also reviewing it with your team. The cadence can vary — you can do weekly as Nagelj’s team does or you can make it a fortnightly/monthly thing.

    7. OKRs that reflect the company’s north star

    “Our OKRs were set to reflect our customer’s success in the stock market based on their use of our education tools,” shares Michael Taylor from Shifting Shares.

    “We used KPIs such as customer lifetime value and metrics developed around the ROI our customers felt they received based on the cost of our product.”

    As for how they monitor progress, Taylor outlines, “We use a Google Studio dashboard and a custom Excel sheet to track our objective’s progress and our key results metrics. The value of a dashboard for us is organization. It is so helpful to be able to immediately pull numbers on what we are doing and how our clients are faring. It really allows us to service our customers better and address areas we need to improve on.”

    Related: Defining Your North Star Metrics: Which Metrics Should Your Company Priorities Be Aligned Around?

    8. OKRs by industry standards and past performance

    Another realistic way to set OKRs is by looking at what’s working in the industry as well as tracking your team’s past performance. The goal? To make sure you are striking balance in setting goals that are challenging yet achievable for the team.

    Let’s look at how Social Vantage accomplishes this. Daniel Barrett, “We started by doing research on what other companies were doing with their OKRs. We also talked with our entire team about what we wanted to achieve as a company, and we determined whether or not these were things that could be measured.”

    “We then wrote up the goals for each quarter and identified the metrics that would tell us whether or not those goals were being met,” says Barrett.

    “For example, if one of our goals was to increase revenue by 10%, we looked at how much revenue we had made in previous quarters, how much revenue other companies in our industry were making, and how many customers we had gained or lost during those same periods of time. Then we looked at what kind of growth rate would be considered acceptable for us to achieve by the end of this quarter’s goal period (typically three months).”

    “Once we had identified all of our Key Results metrics, we created an OKR dashboard so that everyone on our team could see how well they were doing at achieving these goals on a daily basis,” Barrett goes on.

    “This has been very helpful because it gives us all accountability for meeting or exceeding expectations — and it makes sure no one gets away with slacking off!”

    9. OKR by company-wide goal

    And finally, you can also set OKRs based on your company. For Text Request, for example, revenue is the top annual company-wide goal according to Kenneth Burke.

    Once they note it down, the team asks: “’What are the most important things we in Marketing need to accomplish so that our company hits this goal?’ Those become our Objectives, and we break them down by function (brand, demand, content, etc.) and put Key Results to each Objective.”

    “Every Objective has a clear metric tied to it (e.g. number of online reviews gathered or sales deals created),” explains Burke. “We’re saying that if we complete these Key Results this quarter, we should reach that Objective, as measured by this metric.”

    “We use these OKRs as the bedrock of our weekly team meetings and report on progress monthly. OKRs set our priorities, and if any idea or task comes up that falls outside of our OKRs, we shelve it for later.”


    Create Your First OKR Dashboard in Databox for Free

    To recap, OKRs give your team crystal clarity on what to work on for long-term business growth. You can choose these based on your company vision, goals, priorities, and a lot more.

    But to ensure you’re hitting these OKRs, make sure you create an OKR dashboard. This way, you can monitor progress, promote team accountability, and boost productivity.

    The key to a useful OKR dashboard, however, lies in designing a dashboard that’s visually engaging and easy to understand. It’s only then that the dashboard can give you a quick, high-level overview of what your objectives and results are, and how much progress has been achieved.

    Not sure where to start with designing your OKR dashboard? We recommend using Databox to create your dashboard.

    The reason: there’s next to zero manual work required from your end when setting up a Databox dashboard. All you have to do is to connect your data sources once, and the software will create a dashboard for you.

    It also automatically updates progress, so you’re always getting real-time progress updates — eliminating the need for periodic performance reviews since you can keep track of performance using the dashboard easily.

    Most of all, because Databox’s dashboards are easy to read, you can share them with any team or department, making it straightforward for anyone to understand progress at a glance.

    And to top it all, the devices are available on multiple devices (phone, tv, smartwatch). Again, this makes it simple for you to track real-time progress anytime you want, from any device of your preference.

    So sign up for Databox today and create an easy-to-understand, accessible OKR dashboard today.

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    Masooma Memon

    Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.

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