It sounds easy – Objectives are qualitative in nature & key results are measurable definitions of success/failure of the objective. But when it comes to defining key results, teams often tend to confuse them with a list of activities or tasks. Let us take an example & try to understand this in more detail.
Improve traffic from marketing content on the product website
Write & publish 8 blog posts this quarter
Number of landing pages first visited (as measured by Google analytics) increase from 125 to 145
Now if we dissect the key results, we can see the first one is merely an activity, unless you really think (only) publishing 8 blog posts will help in increasing the traffic. Ideally that key result can be rephrased to be something like – Out of 8 planned blog posts this quarter, at least 3 appear in the top 10 google searches for corresponding keywords. The second key result, that talks about increasing number of landing pages (as measured by Google analytics) is appropriate because it just tracks the result. Doesn’t dictate the underlying tasks.
Having discussed this, there would be some cases where it does make sense to set a checklist, list of activities/tasks as key result. In such cases, completing these activities would guarantee achievement of the parent objective. For example,
Implement industry standard security measures
Complete internal audit (with the help of an external observer)
Achieve ISO 27001 certification
Since the audit process is already defined & there are no unknowns, completing internal audit can be just a checklist of activities. Checking off this checklist would mean you are getting closer to achieving the parent objective. Thus, there are specific cases where you would want to set activity or milestone based key results. Otherwise as a standard, ensure value based key results are used across the organisation.
To identify if a key result is value based or not – simply try to answer the question ‘What value/s are we measuring as part of this key result?’ If you can answer this without even thinking for more than a second, you have got it right. And more often than not, this value should relate to your overall business.