When deciding on a goal, look at the OKRs of your team, division, or company for business priorities. What you're going to contribute to is your alignment.
It can tempting to make your current job assignments fit into one of the OKRs "above". This often feels unnatural and forced. OKRs don't necessarily capture all your job duties. But if you really want to track some unrelated goals in an OKR, don't align it.
When using individual OKRs, you may wonder whether you need an OKR specific to your team.
It's simpler to avoid team OKRs if you can. Only add a team goal when it is more specific than its parent. Perhaps you want to track a certain KPI or lay out a team plan.
For instance, with a company-wide goal of Make our customers love us, a good customer support team OKR could be Decrease customer wait time while a good R&D team OKR would be Add 2 of the top 3 most requested features.
A sure sign that a team OKR is superfluous is when its key results are identical to its parent's.
In larger organizations, it's tempting to reflect the organization chart into a hierarchy of goals. We recommend against cascading deeper than 2 or 3 levels to keep things connected and real for employees.
Forcing individual OKRs to only contribute to one of their team's OKRs makes things simpler at first but can become counterproductive as employees are locked into a narrow set of objectives. Let employees explore and contribute to other OKRs and think outside the box.
Of course, employees don't have to contribute to ALL of their team's goals.
Cross-team work and collaboration is a more advanced way to align goals that fosters greater cooperation.
For instance, if the engineering team is split geographically and in different departments, having common goals for them makes more sense. You can find common goals for teams that usually collaborate tightly such as QA and Software Development.
The downside to cross-team goals is a more complicated management: someone needs to be in charge of organizing and monitoring the various individual OKRs.
That's why we only recommend this setup for more experienced teams that need less oversight.
Team goals aren't all or nothing. You can start by limiting individual OKRs to cascade from team OKRs and relax the rule as needed. Remember though that the simpler and natural the alignment, the better.