Who Invented The OKR Framework? A Brief OKR History

Any organization, big or small, cannot function well without an efficient goals-management system. The invention of OKRs brought that simplicity to organizational goals-setting and management.

Think about how simple your job can become if you know exactly what you need to achieve and how to get there.

For years, organizations struggled to measure and track the companies’ work output and relied on inefficient methods to judge individual and team performance.

Due to the pioneering work of some scientific managers like Henry Ford and Andy Grove, the inefficient goal frameworks took shape into OKRs.

The OKR framework was not a random invention. It evolved from a series of reworked management frameworks over several decades.

Find out how OKRs came into existence through years of evolution in the business world.

What can OKRs do for your business?


OKRs are a simple way to align your team around a shared vision and measure your progress toward your goals.

OKRs create alignment by cascading objectives from top-level to departmental and individual levels, ensuring everyone understands how their work contributes to the bigger picture.

Traditional strategic planning is often top-down and can be slow to adapt to change. OKRs, on the other hand, are bottom-up and iterative, which allows you to adjust your goals as your environment changes quickly.


In your daily work life, OKRs clarify what truly matters, helping you prioritize your efforts and align them with your objectives.

They break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes it easier to stay on track and progress towards your goals.

They also foster cross-functional collaboration, breaking down silos and enabling teams to work together towards shared goals.

Transparency and organizational growth

OKRs promote transparency by making objectives and key results visible to everyone, creating a sense of accountability and fostering a culture of ownership.

They also encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing learning from successes and failures to improve performance continuously.

OKRs make it clear what everyone is responsible for and how they contribute to the organization’s overall success.

Start of measuring the output – Taylor-Ford Model

Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford were influential industrial engineering and management figures.

Taylor, often called the “Father of Scientific Management,” pioneered scientific approaches to improve workplace efficiency.

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, embraced Taylor’s principles and implemented them in his assembly line production system, revolutionizing manufacturing processes.

Highlights of the model

  • Focus on efficiency

Every task is broken down into its most minor possible components, optimized for efficiency.

  • Hierarchical structure

There is a transparent chain of command; everyone knows who they report to.

  • Carrot-and-stick approach

Employees are rewarded for meeting their goals and punished for not meeting them.

Disadvantages of the Taylor-Ford model

  • Can be demotivating

Employees may feel like they are just cogs in a machine and may not have any say in their work. It also blocks creativity.

  • Lack of goal orientation

The Taylor-Ford Model primarily focuses on output and efficiency, with little emphasis or alignment with broader organizational objectives.

  • Not flexible

It has rigid, standardized processes, leaving little room for adaptation or response to changing circumstances.

  • Can lead to employee burnout

Employees may feel like they are constantly under pressure to meet their goals and may not have enough time to rest and recover.

The dawn of modern management  – Drucker Model

Peter Drucker was a renowned management consultant and author widely regarded as the “Father of Modern Management.”

His groundbreaking ideas and insights have shaped management and continue influencing organizations worldwide.

Drucker’s work emphasized the importance of effectiveness, innovation, and the human side of management.

He was also the inspiration for Andy Grove who created the OKRs.

Highlights of the model

Managers and employees collaborate to set specific objectives that align with organizational goals.

  • Employee Involvement

This model emphasizes the active involvement of employees in the goal-setting process. This fosters a sense of ownership and accountability.

  • Goal Alignment

Drucker stresses the importance of aligning individual goals with the organization’s broader objectives. 

  • Performance Evaluation and Feedback

Drucker stresses the importance of periodic performance evaluations and feedback in driving continuous improvement.

  • Adaptability and Innovation

Drucker’s model emphasizes the need to explore new ideas, take calculated risks, and seek opportunities for growth and improvement.

  • Clear Communication and Collaboration

To ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards common goals, open communication channels are essential, both vertically and horizontally.

Disadvantages of the Drucker model

  • Lack of agility

The emphasis on goal alignment and hierarchical goal setting may limit flexibility and hinder organizations’ ability to respond quickly to unexpected challenges.

  • Overemphasis on top-down goal setting

It may lead to a narrow focus on the outcomes. This approach may overlook or undervalue other essential aspects, such as creativity, innovation, and long-term strategic thinking.

  • Potential for Goal Disconnection

In some cases, top-down cascading can result in a disconnection between organizational goals and individual/team objectives.

  • Little emphasis on Employee Development

It has a limited emphasis on skills enhancement, learning opportunities, and career advancement.

  • Potential for Tunnel Vision

Individuals and teams may become excessively focused on achieving their objectives at the expense of other essential factors. This can hinder collaboration, innovation, and adaptability.

Andy Grove invents the OKR framework

Andy Grove was a highly regarded entrepreneur, executive, author, and the founder of OKRs. He served as the CEO and Chairman of Intel Corporation, a renowned global technology company.

Grove’s leadership, strategic thinking, and management via OKRs were pivotal in Intel’s transformation into a dominant force in the semiconductor industry.

Synthesizing OKRs from the MBOs

Andy Grove synthesized OKRs from the MBOs model by applying manufacturing production principles to the administrative, professional, and managerial ranks. He aimed to create an environment that values and emphasizes output, as opposed to focusing on mere activity.

As a scientific manager, Grove sought to define and measure output by knowledge workers and find ways to increase it. He extensively studied behavioral science and cognitive psychology to understand how to optimize productivity.

Grove named his goal-setting system “iMBOs” as a tribute to Drucker’s MBO, but it differed significantly in practice. Grove introduced the concept of “key results,” which tied objectives to measurable milestones, a term he had coined himself.

By combining his knowledge of scientific management, behavioral science, and cognitive psychology, Grove synthesized OKRs as a goal-setting framework emphasizing measurable outcomes and productivity.

His innovative approach at Intel revolutionized how organizations set and achieve goals, providing a more effective and results-oriented methodology.

MBOs vs OKRs




Focus ResultsOKRs
TimeframeAnnual Quarterly or Monthly
OwnershipTop-downTop-down & Bottom-up
AlignmentVertical Horizontal & Vertical

Two success instances of Intel with OKRs

In 1980, Intel was facing a competitive crisis from Motorola. They used OKRs to rally around a new objective of becoming the world’s leading semiconductor company. This goal helped Intel to focus its resources and to make better decisions. As a result, Intel was able to defend its market share successfully and become the world’s leading semiconductor company.

In the early 2000s, Intel faced a new challenge from the rise of mobile computing. The company used OKRs to set an objective of becoming the leading supplier of chips for mobile devices. This goal helped Intel to focus its resources on mobile computing and to make better decisions. As a result, Intel was able to adapt to the changing market successfully and become the leading supplier of chips for mobile devices.

The continued evolution of OKRs

As Intel achieved several successes with OKRs, the framework gained recognition and started getting attention from other companies.

John Doerr, a renowned venture capitalist, and former Intel employee, played a pivotal role in popularizing OKRs beyond Intel.

In 1999, he convinced Larry and Sergey of Google to adopt OKRs to manage their then-small team.

He became an ardent advocate of OKRs and introduced them to the world through his book, “Measure What Matters.”

Since the adoption of OKRs by Google, companies such as LinkedIn, Adobe, Salesforce, Microsoft, Spotify, Twitter, Dropbox, Asana, Shopify, Hubspot, Lyft, Twilio, Zoom, Netflix, etc.

Google is one of the most iconic examples of how OKRs can transform an organization. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, embraced OKRs from the early days and made them an integral part of the company’s culture.

Google fostered a sense of focus, transparency, and accountability, and the use of OKRs propelled its growth, innovation, and market dominance, making it a shining example of the power of OKRs.

OKRs are not limited to tech companies or even companies. OKRs continue to evolve, and companies and individuals are constantly finding new ways to optimize their goal-setting practices.

From startups to multinational corporations, OKRs are being implemented across industries, proving their versatility and effectiveness.

Thought leaders, experts, and practitioners are sharing valuable insights and case studies, contributing to the knowledge and understanding of OKRs.

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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