Setting the Best Quarterly Goals for Your Midstage Tech Startup

Show Notes

All startups need to set goals for themselves, which is why it’s essential to have quarterly rocks that can keep you on pace to achieve your goals. Unfortunately, not all startups are adept at setting up quarterly rocks. They don’t always set rocks that are achievable or realistic. After all, there is a difference between good quarterly rocks and bad quarterly rocks.

Startup coach Roland Siebelink begins to tackle this problem. He shares with listeners the four levels of effectiveness for quarterly rocks and the 12 criteria for effective rocks.


How do you set the best quarterly rocks for your startup and what are some great examples of good and bad quarterly rocks or OKRs for midstage tech startups? Hello, I'm Roland Siebelink and I'm the founder and CEO of the Midstage Institute. At the Midstage Institute, we help tech startups cross the midstage faster and more effectively, and without falling into many of the traps that we have lived before. As part of that, we have helped hundreds of startups set new quarterly goals, often many quarters in a row. And so, we've learned a thing or two about what makes these quarterly rocks or quarterly OKRs the most effective. That's what I want to share with you in this series of videos.

Today, we do an introduction and give a bit of an overview of what we're going to be talking about. First, for context, let's just equate rocks with OKRs. I know there's a lot of fundamentalist discussion in many tech startups - and among many consultants as well - as exactly what is an OKR and how does it differ from an objective or from a management goal and how does it differ from a rock? But I think sometimes in that discussion, the essence of setting goals and living up to them gets lost and we get too distracted by learning about the ins and outs and all the intricacies of the terminology. I don't want to focus on that in this series of videos; there's a time and a place for that, but it's not here. Here, we're really just talking about what is the best way to set quarterly goals for your company and to live up to them and hope that you accomplish most of them.

Let's just start right off with an example of a great set of quarterly rocks. We see four rocks here and I won't read through all of them - you can see them right here in the video - but in this introduction, we want to start analyzing why this would be a great set of quarterly rocks. And actually, as facilitators, we like to ask you the question first. Why are these great rocks? Take a minute and write down three or five reasons - studying this set of quarterly rocks - why you think these are chosen as a set of great quarterly rocks? I'll give you a minute and be back with you after that.

Okay. We are back. That was just a minute of writing down three to five reasons why this is a great set of quarterly rocks. Of course, it's not always that easy to just do this interactively in a video. I'll just list a few reasons here on the slide why people like these rocks. I'm not going to read through all of them, but I would say these nine are some of the reasons that people typically say that they like these rocks. There's dimensions of clarity, dimensions of conciseness, dimensions of inspiration, and you can see it all on this slide.

Now the framework we want to use in this set of videos about good and bad examples of quarterly rocks and OKRs is a framework that consists of four levels of effectiveness. We talk about the 12 criteria of effective rocks. And we divide them up into four clusters. The individual rock effectiveness, that three criteria. The rock set effectiveness, that's another three criteria. Rock context effectiveness, another three criteria. And the last three criteria are the effectiveness of the rock discipline.

As a quick introduction, I'm going to already lift the tip of the veil and say what we're going to be talking about in the next videos. When we talk about individual rock effectiveness, we will talk about having a desirable deliverable, about a project, not a routine, that is the subject of the rock and also something that is preferably cross-departmental rather than focused on a specific function. Those are the three criteria we'll be applying in the individual rock effectiveness.

In the rock set effectiveness, we look primarily for a set that consists of maximum five. And then ideally, also only maximum one per core engine of the company. I'm going to explain what that means. And finally, the fact that each of these should target a really concerning part of the engine KPIs. For example, driving up the overall sales number - what do you do in there in order to make a notable difference in that sales number?

Third set is the rock context effectiveness. And here we look primarily at the broader context in which these rocks are set and to which they are linked. One is a link - loose coupling perhaps - to the longer term goals of the company that should also be documented, of course. The core objectives and a core identity and vision for the company - the permanent founding reasons for the company - how can we link it to that? And finally, links to the scorecards of the individual executives and other people in the company.

And the fourth cluster of effectiveness criteria is the rock discipline effectiveness criteria. Here we look primarily at some drivers that make us more effective in delivering these rocks or OKRs. And the three we highlight are the fact that they should have separate owners- and I might highlight these owners should not be the CEO. They should be broken down into intermediate goals. And also, we should have a very clear follow-up cadence to understand exactly when are we checking in on these rocks, when are we going to be talking about them, seeing where we can course correct a little bit. And also, when is the next time when we will be setting new rocks, presumably for the next quarter.

Going through all of these, we saw criteria for individual rock effectiveness, criteria for the rock set effectiveness, criteria for the rock context effectiveness, and the rock discipline effectiveness. And the question I would ask you, my viewer, is to consider where you feel your startup falls short the most. Is it in the individual rock criteria, the rock set criteria, the rock context criteria, or the rock discipline criteria? Please rank these four clusters in order of where you fall short to most to where you fall short the least. And we'll give you 30 seconds to do so.

We hope that in this introduction, you've already gotten a high level-view of what can make your quarterly rocks and your quarterly OKRs more effective at your tech startup. We'll be sharing a lot more detailed learnings for each of those sets of criteria in the coming videos. The next video focuses, first and foremost, on the individual effectiveness of each rock.

We're looking forward to having you join that. If you want to get a ping when that video comes out, please just subscribe on www dot mIdstage dot org slash rocks. There'll be a sign up form there so that you can make sure you get this in your email. Other than that, as I said, the Midstage Institute is there to help startups cross the midstage. We focus on tech startups all around the world. Please review our best practices, seek facilitation for your team, or seek some coaching. If you want extra help with your tech startup, we are there to make you successful. Thank you.

Roland Siebelink talks all things tech startup and bring you interviews with tech cofounders across the world.