I heard a terrific story recently about Carl Friedrich Gauss, the 18th century German mathematician. And who isn’t a sucker for a good 18th century German mathematician story?

When Gauss was a schoolboy, a teacher once challenged the class with this problem: Add the numbers from 1 to 100 (1 + 2 = 3, 3 +3 = 6, 6 + 4 = 10, etc.). Assuming this challenge would occupy the students for a considerable time, the teacher was about to leave the room when young Gauss slammed his pencil down and proclaimed, “Done!” The teacher, incredulous of course, examined the young prodigy’s notebook and was astonished to see he had indeed found the correct answer. Why don’t you give it a try? Ready? Go!

If you’re still crunching numbers after about 10 seconds, then you’re quite a ways behind Gauss, who solved the problem almost instantly. How did he do it? A shortcut. Gauss realized that from 1 to 100 there are exactly 50 pairs of matching numbers: 1 + 100 = 101, 2 + 99 = 101, 3 + 98 = 101, etc. Therefore, he simply multiplied 101 by 50 to determine the correct answer of 5,050. This charming story prompted me to reflect on my work with OKRs. Are there any possible shortcuts for creating effective OKRs? The answer is a fence-sitting yes and no. Let's look at both.

# Shortcuts: Go for it

On the positive side of the ledger, I believe there are some shortcuts to writing sound OKRs.

### Using proven formulas

Objectives are always composed of three parts: They should begin with a verb, be followed by what you’re attempting to achieve, and end with the business impact you’re striving toward. Here’s a simple example: Increase attendance at our annual user conference in order to enhance member engagement with our products. Writing objectives can (and probably should be) a difficult assignment, but using a simple formula as a template can help you write OKRs in a consistent fashion, whether you’re brand new to the model or a seasoned veteran.

### Adhering to a checklist of characteristics

Once you’ve drafted an OKR, gauge its efficacy by examining it in light of some basic attributes of an effective OKR. For example, does the objective contain the three components described above? Are the key results actually measurable? Are they ambitious? Can you complete them in 90 days? Visit our website at okrstraining.com for more characteristics of an effective OKR.

More simply, make the development of OKRs a habit. Your organization should have created a cadence for OKRs, typically quarterly, and based on the fact that there will be pre-determined dates by which OKRs should be developed, vetted, and finalized. Put those dates on your calendar for the entire year and make them sacrosanct! On the appointed day (or days), ensure you set aside the time required to assess your situation and create an effective set of OKRs.

# Shortcuts: Not Worth It

Following the advice offered above will put you on track to develop powerful OKRs, but there are some aspects of the process for which there are no shortcuts.