OKR Examples for Chief Operating Officers

These general examples are intended to provide inspiration for those who want to set and develop good OKRs. Keep in mind that OKRs are primarily developed by you, over time, through the insights you make towards your goal and the feedback you get from your colleagues.
Ilustration of a woman in a meditative state.
Illustration by Andy Dao

Read on to get an introduction to OKRs as a method, what the heck a Chief Operating Officer does and get inspired by OKR examples for Chief Operating Officers (COOs) that can be applied to your own company.

What is an OKR?

OKR stands for Objectives & Key Results and is a goal-setting method with a set of best practices. It emphasizes transparency, high ambition and a strong focus on results & data and is famous for being the method of choice of tech companies like Google and Twitter. Nowadays spread to a vast variety of industries, even non-profits like Bono’s ONE Campaign and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

How do you set an OKR?

The OKR consists of one Objective and a set of Key Results. The Objective can be seen as the small mission statement / the expectation of where you want to go, expressed in soft terms, whereas the Key Results are the factual results that needs to be accomplished to deem the Objective successful. In short, OKRs are a great way to clearly state “what success looks like“. Progress is then measured on each Key Result and is rolled up to an average profit of the Objective. It is recommended that you set between 2-4 key results per Objective.

In Node’s setup, OKRs are set everywhere in the organization where you want to drive and measure meaningful change and then aligned cross-functionally between roles, teams and departments using Focus Areas.

 
Objective
Focus Area
 
Key Result 1
 
Key Result 2
 
Key Result 3

Who is the Chief Operating Officer?

The COO, short for Chief Operating Officer, is head of operations in the organization. This is the obvious part. What is not as obvious, however, is what Operations actually means.

Well, this is very different depending on the industry and the type and size of the organization. According to AQPC, operating processes entail Strategy, Developing Products, Market & Sell, Delivery and Customer Support, so pretty much everything that is not part of the support functions (such as HR, IT, Finance etc.). But if we are looking at your typical SaaS Org setup, operations are much more thought of as the supporting functions of your company’s main business. In this article we will define being chief of operations as leading the internal support functions mentioned above, but also specialist functions such as Sales Ops and Project Management Office.

The COO is a senior role, often 2nd in command next to the CEO. Go-to-market functions like VP of Sales and the CMO may report to them, but in our example they don’t.

A screenshot of our OKR Software showing the reporting lines between the COO and his reporting lines.

Meaningful change for COOs

OKRs are about creating results towards a meaningful change, so what could be some good examples of this? Here are some common areas we’ve found: 

  • Improving time, quality and cost in projects
  • Improving efficiency in handovers between departments.
  • Enabling time to focus on execution of Go-to-market Strategy.

Useful metrics of meaningful change include:

  • Success criterias of projects and product outcomes (CSAT score, % Budget variance)
  • Reducing costs & error (# customer complaints, overhead costs)
  • Improving efficiency (Lead time, story points)
  • Measures of adoption within org (% of usage)

Of course, there are many other metrics for this role, but the above are some good examples of metrics that signal meaningful change and hence make out a good starting point for developing OKRs.

Setting OKRs for COOs

When you set out to create a role-specific OKR, knowing what the role is responsible for driving for the company as well as how that meaningful change is measured is a good starting point. Hence the two previous headlines. But you need something more. You need a current state.

Think about the current state of things, from the perspective of your role + the company. Ask yourself – what brings business value? We use the OKR Canvas as it lets you list the impact that you see you can achieve during the coming period, but also the blockers that are plausible and that you need to address. Sometimes, the impact is to remove a blocker. Check out the OKR Canvas to learn more.

OKR Examples for Chief Operating Officers

As stated above, OKRs should be used to drive meaningful change. Here comes a set of examples, with a corresponding introduction to the underlying reasoning behind the OKR (developed with the OKR Canvas):

Background: The last year has shown a decrease in company growth and the company’s CEO has asked her executive team to gather and discuss what can be done. The team performs an OKR Canvas workshop and concludes that there are clear issues with clear qualitative customer outcomes but at the same time, issues with profitability. The team sees a potential in focusing on both quality in projects and profitability and hands the following OKR over to the COO to drive:

 
Projects’ customer outcome has significantly increased but costs has not.
Bring more value to our Customers
 
Go from 6 to 9 in CSAT score in customer satisfaction interviews.
 
Number of new customer complaint tickets goes from 85 to 40 during the period.
 
95% of all projects are finished within budget.
Background: As most companies, the pandemic has had significant impact on the fundamentals of the organization’s recruitment practice and remote work is a key topic for future success. The company’s onboarding process is however far from aligned to this new reality, and the COO is hence tasked to create a meaningful change towards that fact:

 
Our onboarding process is 100% aligned with our new remote reality.
Working Together
 
5 critical steps in our onboarding are optimized and used in remote onboarding processes.
 
20% higher satisfaction score on remote new-hires.
 
30 video final interviews completed.
Background: The company has grown very fast and are missing some managerial tools to handle the strong growth, in fact – one of the issues is now slowing down growth. The organization has so far been very flexible with work hours. Not in terms of amount, but rather WHEN people should show up at the office. The organization do not wish to stop with this completely as this is seen as one of the big perks working here, but they need to do something about it. The COO suggests the following OKR:

 
Kill understaffing without sacrificing our finances and freedom in work culture.
Working together
 
75% of our daytime hours and 25% of our nighttime hours are with at least 3 engineers, 1 PO, 2 CS and 1 senior executive on schedule.
 
Decrease overtime expenses with 40%
 
85% of our staff approves and switches from our fixed to our rotating schedule.

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