How many OKRs?
Your organization will only fully reap the benefits of OKRs if you have the discipline to narrow your selection to the select few objectives that matter most. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority, and more importantly, you will accomplish nothing because you will be overwhelmed and unable to actually start.
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger
Instead of adding to your collection of OKRs, you should ask yourself, "What can we eliminate?" "Is every item on our list a true and essential priority for our success over the next 90 days?"
Start on the top, preferably with a Vision and Mission to have a context. See the dictionary we use to describe the concepts of OKRs and Agile Tools. You can have one measurable Goal for a Vision and a few for the organization. Learn for a quarter or two and expand slowly.
There is always an "It depends!" safeguard. The process can unwind faster if an organization decides to roll out the OKR program with several best-on-the-market consultants and coaches. Still, be cautious.
What about the number of Key Results per Objective?
There is no one correct answer to the question of how many Key Results are required for a given objective. You may get a consensus between three and five if you search online for information on this subject.
The correct response is as many as necessary to provide a narrative of your accomplishment of the Objective. The important word in the previous sentence is "narrative" or "story".
Let's use a small B2B SaaS company to illustrate this concept.
Since we worded the Objective according to the recommended formula: verb + what we want to achieve + to/for (business effect), we quickly recognize that increasing trial users to paying customers is the ultimate key result based on the business impact we are aiming for.
Then let's begin with this:
The metric we used in the above Key Result is Active Trial Users and is even more "strict" (because we used the word "Active") than the business effect we aim for in the Objective.
One can say that this Key Result is all we need to measurably check if our Objective was a success. If it were the only key result, we would have to wait until the end of the period to see if we accomplished it.
Let's supplement it with one additional "driving" Key Result that will allow us to evaluate the progress achieved throughout the period.
With such a Key Result, we "drive" toward the number of trial users, and to measure one more metric, let's add the third Key Result and put it all together:
Now we have a story, and to have one, is the only reasonable answer to "How many Key Results do we need?"