OKRs Library: Partner Success OKR

I’m on a mission to share real-world examples of OKRs. In my OKRs Library Preview, I shared an example from a Legal team. Prior posts include examples from our pals in FinanceUser Experience (UX), and Facilities. Future posts will include examples of OKRs from other domains such as Consulting, DevOps, and Security.  This post summarizes a partner-success OKR.  If you are in any business development function, you will likely relate to this partner-success OKR.  In addition to the process for creating the OKR, this post explores the scoring for each Key Result at the end of the cycle. Finally, I share some learnings from the reflect and reset session that will help shape this team’s approach to OKRs in their next cycle. As with all my clients, OKRs begin with a mission.

Mission: Make eCommerce Company ABC a relevant, long-term, value-creating partner for retailers

Objective: End Q3 on track to retain 90% of 2018 total revenue share from existing partners.

Key Results

  1. Retain ALL of Top 10 partners up for renewal in Q3 with an overall average of 90% of existing revenue-share agreements.
  2. Launch or receive approval on 5 Enterprise product launches
  3. Double in-person meetings from 50 in Q2 to 100 in Q3 (each meeting must have next steps that drive KR1 and/or KR 2)


The Partner Success team at this high-tech eCommerce company was not totally new to OKRs.  They came into the drafting workshop having already drafted OKRs for their team in the past.  In general, the company felt that they had set “too many OKRs” in their first pass at OKRs.  Most teams set several Objectives and often had over ten Key Results to track. Many of these Key Results were written as milestones. Organizations tend to begin their OKRs journey by simply writing down a set of key tasks. But as my colleague, Christina Wodtke, always reminds us, “OKRs are not about checking a box.”  The leadership team explained that the primary purpose of OKRs was to get everyone working smarter on the right things. The organization was growing quickly and everyone agreed that people “worked really hard and had taken on more projects than they could handle.”  They wanted to implement OKRs to ensure that teams did not continue to chase the latest shiny object; they wanted to be more disciplined and focused.

Getting each team to set a single OKR as Christina advises in Radical Focus helped reduce the number of OKRs and force us to focus.  In addition, we agreed to allow at most four Key Results and required most Key Results be written as metrics rather than “check-the-box” milestones.  However, we did give some flexibility by allowing teams to set one Key Result that could take the form as a baseline or milestone.  Please refer to this post for a breakdown on how to classify a Key Result as a metric, baseline or milestone. Jimmy and the Partner Success team followed the 7-step process for creating team-level OKRs, beginning with developing the team’s mission. Jimmy and his team quickly aligned on their Mission and their Objective. We spent most of our coaching time defining measurable Key Results. Here is an abbreviated version of our OKRs coaching dialog.

OKRs Coaching Excerpt

Ben: How will we know we will have ended Q3 on track to retain 90% of 2018 total revenue share from our existing partners? I’m also curious about how many partners we have on board right now? Should all be counted the same of are some partners more impactful than others?

Jimmy: We have several hundred partners. However, for the next few months, we need to focus on the top 10 partners up for renewal. The top 10 make up about 80% of the potential partner revenue up for renewal.

Ben: OK, so how can we make this measurable? Is it as simple as either renewing a partner or not renewing a partner?

Jimmy: Kind of, but not quite. We tend to retain nearly all partners. The tricky thing is to renew our partners without giving away too much of the pie. We want to not only retain all partners, we want to do so without losing any of our revenue share which is typically set anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5%.

Ben: Are we measuring our ability to renew partners while maintaining revenue share?

Jimmy: Yes, when we figure all our partners into the equation, including the ones we lose for whatever reason, we’re coming in at 70-90% total partner revenue retention.

Ben: What would be the most amazing revenue retention you can imagine in Q3?

Jimmy: 100% is theoretically possible, but nearly impossible since none of the partnerships are set up to increase our revenue share and some are set to reduce slightly over time. I’d say 90% would be amazing.

Ben: OK, does that feel like a Key Result.

Jimmy: Yes.

Leads us to KR1: Retain ALL of the Top 10 partners up for renewal in Q3 with an overall average of 90% of existing revenue-share agreements.

Jimmy: We need to launch new products based on what our partners want. This shows we’re adding more value and being responsive. We need a Key Result like launch 5 products in Q3.

Ben: Is that even possible?

Jimmy: Actually no, but we could write it as launch or get approval to launch 5 products in Q3.

Ben: Does any product count here?

Jimmy: No. We should count only Enterprise Products; they are the ones partners are demanding.

Ben: OK, that sounds like a potential Key Result. How many Enterprise Products did we launch last period?

Jimmy: Typically we launch 1-2 per Quarter, but our CEO as well as our partners want more.  In our market, simply launching products generates buzz. This helps retain as well as attract new partners.

Ben: Well then, I don’t normally recommend a Key Result based simply on number of launches; a Key Result should measure the impact of a launch.

Jimmy: I get that, but we will not see the real impact of these launches for quite some time. And, we will see some near-term business impact as new products allow us to show progress to our partners. This gives us a positive thing to share when we meet up. By the way, that’s really the most important leading indicator for how our partnerships are going. We need to be more proactive with our partners rather than waiting to reach out the month or two before they are up for renewal.

Leads us to KR2: Launch or receive approval on 5 Enterprise product launches

Ben: How can we measure this level of proactivity?

Jimmy: It’s all about face-to face partner meetings. We had 50 last period. If we could double that, it would be great as 100 in Q3 would be about ten/week assuming ten full weeks in Q3 which is basically two per week for each of our five key players. It’s a stretch, but feels possible.

Ben: As a general rule, we don’t want to define a Key Result as ‘have lots of meetings’ as that sounds more like a task. What is the intended outcome of these meetings? Are all meetings equally impactful?

Jimmy: That’s a good question. Clearly some are better than others. The intended outcome is to get to know what’s working and what we need to be doing better for our partners.

Ben: OK, can you think of a specific meeting that was highly impactful and another meeting that was not?

Jimmy: The best meetings have a documented outcome that informs the team.

Ben: And how will it inform the team?

Jimmy: If the meeting clearly leads to an action item or we get a suggestion from our partner that drives retention or helps shape how we create an Enterprise Product, it’s a good outcome.

Ben: What about “Double in-person meetings from 50 in Q2 to 100 in Q3 that includes documented ideas for improving retention or a new product?”

Jimmy: I really like that one! What about we specify that each meeting must have next steps that drive KR1 and/or KR 2.  This will force us to be 100% clear about the goal of our partner meetings before the meeting. And it keeps us focused on our first two KRs which I expect we will focus on every OKRs cycle. It will really drive accountability.

Leads to KR 3: Double in-person meetings from 50 in Q2
to 100 in Q3 (each meeting must have next steps that drive
KR1 and/or KR 2)

After completing Q3, Jimmy and I had a reflect and reset coaching session to capture learnings from the Partner-Success OKR. We scored each Key Result and reflected on what worked well and where we could improve.

Partner-Success OKR Scoring

  1. Key Result 1 – Score 1.0! We nailed this one at 89.6% which we’re rounding up to 90%. This felt almost like a miracle looking back at it and we do not feel we gamed the system even though I know you are not supposed to achieve the 1.0 level often.
  2. Key Result 2 – Score 0.5. We made progress, but we only got a halfway there. Even though we only launched one product and got approval for one other, we agreed to score this 0.5. It turns out it’s much harder to launch Enterprise Products or even get approval to do so in just three months. We did add some major features that delighted our partners on existing products, so we feel like we actually made good progress here. But our other lesson is that we need to make this a dependent KR or even create a shared OKR with the Product team as we don’t actually launch products in our team, we just collect product requests from partners and share those internally.
  3. Key Result 3 – Score 1.0! We somehow ended up with 100 meetings with documented outcomes that drive our first two Key Results. Writing Key Results in a very tangible and specific way worked well. For example, if we wrote “100 meetings with our partners,” we would not have gotten this much value from the meetings.

What Worked Well

As point person we had a tracking sheet with our three Key Results. This sheet lived in real time and led to a wild success for our team. We started each team meeting with a quick review of where we were on our OKR. Every team member was aware of the Key Results and how we were tracking. We challenged each other about the number of meetings completed each week. But it was all done in a productive way that focused and aligned our team.

Improvement Idea

We had some overlap with the Product team. Looking back at this, our numbers were not totally in synch.  The Product team had a different target for the number of new Enterprise Products in Q3. Going forward, we need more conversations outside our team. It’s a simple thing, but we need to review our Partner-Success OKR with dependent teams and talk before we finalize them. In general, make sure we align upfront with any OKRs that cross teams.


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