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The Ultimate Guide to OKR and The Batman & Robin Principle

  • Growth Marketing

It’s happened to me, and chances are it’s happened to you, too.

You’re working on a task and you need input from a co-worker, but you’re not sure who to contact.

No matter how large or small your business is, it’s not always easy to keep track of who’s responsible for what. And sometimes we end up involving more people than necessary.

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That

The same goes for your department goals. We all set goals to ensure continual growth—but how do you ensure your co-workers have the same perception of those goals?

Over the past six months, our marketing team at Sleeknote has grown. We now have nine online geeks in our marketing department, all working on different tasks and toward different goals.

This created confusion about our work tasks—who’s responsible for what, and what’s the goal of each task?

To ensure we were all on the same page, we realized we needed a better way of managing our department, a framework to hold us accountable to the goals we set at the beginning of the year (and beyond).   

Introducing: objectives and key results (OKR).

In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how OKR completely transformed the way we work and increased accountability in our team, and how you can too. I’m also going to share our Batman & Robin strategy which will create more responsibility within your team and ensure that all tasks are taken care of.

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What is OKR?

OKR is a framework for measuring goals and results within a specific time frame.

Further, Paul R. Niven and Ben Lamorte, authors of Objectives and Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement with OKRs, define OKR as:

A critical thinking framework and ongoing discipline that seeks to ensure employees work together, focusing their efforts to make measurable contributions.

An OKR “sprint” typically spans three to six months, but you can adjust it however you want. It’s easily implemented, and once you’ve done so, all tasks within your department will be aligned with the goals of your department so no one wastes time doing irrelevant or low-priority work.

Let’s break it down:

First, we have the objective.

The objective is what you want to achieve. It’s the overall goal that all your efforts should aim to accomplish.

This objective doesn’t necessarily have to be measurable (I know you love measuring things, but bear with me).

At Sleeknote, we’ve taken the approach of having objectives that are ambitious but can’t be measured, meaning we will always try to reach these objectives, no matter how successful we become.

Red Panda

Here’s an example. One of our content marketing objectives is:

To position Sleeknote as the market authority in e-commerce conversion rate optimization, email marketing, and lead generation.

Having an unmeasurable objective doesn’t mean you won’t be able to measure the effectiveness of your efforts—this is where the key results come into play.

Key results are (as the name implies) the specific results you want to achieve before the end of your timeframe.

These have to be measurable, specific and timed.

One of the key results we’ve decided is:

Achieve an average on-page conversion rate of 5%.

This means we have a specific goal to chase, and we can easily measure whether or not this key result is achieved.

Further, your key results won’t be achieved without actions.

These actions refer to how you will reach your goals. Typically, you’ll have many different actions to achieve one key result.

At Sleeknote, one of our actions to reach an on-page conversion rate of 5% is: Create new landing pages for our website using the mind map overview.

As you can see, we now have a complete overview of the objective, the key result, and the actions that will help you achieve the key result.

Let’s have a closer look at how you implement OKR in your department.

How to implement OKR

OKR is easily implemented in five simple steps.

These are:

  1. Define objectives
  2. Define key results
  3. Define actions
  4. Define timeframe
  5. Define who’s responsible.

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

1. Define objectives

Defining your objective is the most important step.

This is the goal you’ll be pursuing, and it needs to be ambitious and motivating.

You can have more than one objective for your department, depending on how large your team is, but I recommend committing to 1-3 objectives for each team.

The more objectives you add, the more overwhelming it will seem, and the harder your employees will stay motivated.

Too much

Here are a few examples of marketing objectives for inspiration:

  • Define and understand our audience
  • Inform our audience of our product’s best and newest features (and how it benefits them)
  • Grow our customer base, month over month (MoM)
  • Experiment with new marketing channels

Once you’ve defined 1-3 objectives for each team, you move on to the definition of your key results.

2. Define key results

This is where we get more specific. Your key results must support your objective.

Think about ways to achieve your objective. What results are you looking to achieve in order to get closer to your objective?

Once again, I’d stick to around 1-3 key results for each objective to avoid confusion.

Your key results must be measurable, so you know exactly how close you are to achieving them—and they have to be ambitious.

The “sweet spot” for accomplishing key results should be around 70-75%. This means if you achieve your key results 100%, you haven’t been ambitious enough, and you need to aim higher.

Here are a few examples of key results:

  • Conduct ten online client surveys and analyze the results
  • Run five email marketing experiments to increase conversion rates
  • Run 10 experiments to increase traffic to the website
  • Map and analyze our current marketing channels and give at least eight recommendations to improve them.

3. Define actions

If you’re anything like me, you love to-do lists.

Nothing beats checking off item after item, keeping track of exactly how far along you are with your tasks.

Defining your actions is just like creating a to-do list. It’s the specific tasks you’ll be working on to achieve your key results—and more specifically how you’ll achieve them.

Let’s return to one of our key results at Sleeknote: achieve an average on-page conversion rate of 5%.

Here are some of the actions we’ve settled on to help us reach a 5% conversion rate:

  • Launch new website with an emphasis on product features, blog categories, and case studies
  • Publish three original, high-quality blog posts per week
  • Create new landing pages for the website using the mind map overview
  • Identify “content gaps” using Ahrefs
  • Monitor new keywords and competitor keywords

The list goes on…

Defining your actions based on your key results will help you cut unnecessary actions that don’t aid your key results and objectives.

4. Define time frame

Your objectives, key results, and actions must have a time frame.

What’s the deadline for your OKR? Think of it as a sprint. An OKR typically runs every three months, however, sometimes it’s necessary to adjust your time frame depending on the extent of your goals.

For instance, at Sleeknote, we’ve decided to create an OKR that runs from August 1st, 2017 to December 31st, 2017 because we have a lot of actions that take time to develop and implement before we can see data with statistical significance.

You shouldn’t let your OKR run for too long, though. During your time frame, it’s important to bear in mind your objectives and key results can’t be changed.

Your actions, on the other hand, can be changed as often as you like.

Our goal is to achieve the objectives and key results, and through experiments and actions, we might discover things that work and things that don’t. Once we’ve identified what works and what doesn’t, we adjust our efforts accordingly.

For instance, you might find that your Facebook lead ads, aren’t converting as much as you thought, and you need to either increase your ad spending or experiment with other channels to reach your key results.

5. Define who’s responsible

Lastly, you need to define who’s responsible for what. At Sleeknote we’ve divided our marketing department into two teams: a content team and a growth team.

Here’s an OKR example from our content team at Sleeknote:

Sleeknote Content Team OKR

We have the team listed to the left, followed by the objectives, key results, and actions on the right.

Now, we quickly found that this wasn’t enough, and we needed to know exactly who was responsible for each work area and task.

This is where the “Batman & Robin” method comes in.

Batman & Robin: How to ensure team responsibility

The Batman & Robin principle is simple:

Batman slays the bad guys, and Robin is there to assist him whenever he gets in too deep.

Think about how this applies to your marketing department. Every task needs to have a Batman (one who’s responsible for carrying out the task) and a Robin (one who will assist Batman whenever he needs help or is away).

Let’s have a look at the four reasons why you should implement the Batman & Robin method.

1. Ensures everyone in your department knows exactly who’s responsible for what

A common obstacle within departments is confusion over who’s responsible for which tasks. When a task isn’t completed, it can end in people pointing fingers at each other because no one knew they were responsible for that task.


2. You can easily see if someone has too much to do, or if they should be assigned more tasks

You can’t be Batman on everything. And you can’t be Robin on everything. There needs to be a balance between your Batman & Robin tasks.

3. There’s always a backup if someone’s away

What happens if someone calls in sick or is away on vacation? Who’s responsible for that person’s tasks? Robin, of course.

When you use the Batman & Robin structure, there’s no confusion over who will take over when someone’s away.

4. Things get done!

That’s right. Owning responsibility for a task is easier when you understand exactly how it helps achieve an overall goal. Knowing that your work matters—no matter how trivial it may seem—makes you more motivated to get it done.

Knowing exactly who’s responsible for what, saves you time, and get’s the job done faster.

This is an excerpt of our Batman & Robin structure here at Sleeknote:

Sleeknote Batman _ Robin

How to implement Batman & Robin

Once you’ve implemented your OKR, the Batman & Robin method is easily implemented in five simple steps.

Step 1: Define all tasks in your department

Have every member of your team define all their weekly or monthly recurring tasks. Skip small tasks that aren’t recurring or top priority—otherwise, you’ll end up with a massive and overwhelming list.

Plus, as we all know, things change quickly in marketing, so if you haven’t done it already, you should implement agile marketing, and have all your smaller tasks defined somewhere else for your own overview.

Step 2: Assign the Batman

Once all recurring tasks have been defined and outlined, you need to assign a Batman for each task.

As mentioned, the Batman is responsible for carrying out this task, and also responsible for achieving any goals or results related to this task.

Remember to keep a balance in how many tasks one person is Batman on, and distribute responsibility evenly throughout your team.

Step 3: Assign the Robin

The Robin is the number two on each task. He or she has full responsibility for the task when Batman is away.

It’s Batman’s responsibility to let Robin know when he or she is away and let Robin know what needs to be done.

As a rule of thumb, Robin should always stay updated on Batman’s tasks so she can take over without spending too much time on getting up to speed.

Robin is also the first one Batman will reach out to if he needs any help with the task. That way, everyone knows who to contact when they need help, and only the relevant people will be involved.


Step 4: Set a goal for each task

At Sleeknote, we’ve added small goals for each of the Batman & Robin tasks. That way everyone knows why you do what you do.

For instance, I’m Batman on our email marketing in Intercom, and my goal is to set up new Intercom flow and run five experiments to increase free trial to customer conversion rate.

Isabella is Robin on this task, and with the goal, it’s easy for her to see what the purpose of our Intercom email marketing is for this specific OKR time frame whenever she might have to take over or help me out.

The goals should always be defined in collaboration with the Batman, and they should also be measurable, so you can see if the goal has been reached by the end of the sprint.

Setting goals also motivate people to work harder and be more creative.

Step 5: Print your Batman & Robin structure on a massive poster and put it on a wall in your department

Putting the poster on a wall makes it much easier for everyone to see, and quickly look at to see who to contact about a certain task.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Growth Marketing Strategies?

We’ve put together an exhaustive list of 100+ growth marketing strategies our fastest-growing e-commerce customers are using to grow their traffic, get more customers and boost their revenue (organized for your convenience).

Work smarter, not harder

Since implementing OKR and the Batman & Robin principle, we’ve increased our department’s effectiveness. Our goals are much more aligned with our tasks and we’re no longer involving unnecessary people in tasks that aren’t relevant to them.

You also ensure everyone works towards the same goals even though it might be through different methods.

Lastly, OKR increases accountability within your department and combined with the Batman & Robin method, you’ll always know that things get done and by who.

Have you tried OKR or the Batman & Robin principle? What are your experiences? Leave a comment below.

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