OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) is a method for defining and tracking objectives in a team or an entire organization. OKRs have their roots at Intel and are used at various companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Yahoo! to name a few. Read a short history here.
Tracking objectives is nothing new to companies and in some respect, OKRs are a more approachable version of balanced scorecard where employees have more ownership of concrete objectives. You should also note if you're coming from an HR background that OKRs also adhere to the principle of SMART goals.
OKRs let you go from vision to execution in a collaborative way. In the end, you'll have a bunch of goals that look very much like this:
We like to see OKRs as a management technique of goal-setting in a connected environment. A successful OKR approach will find the right balance between top-down objectives (cascaded from upper management) and bottom-up (employees, then teams come up with their own objectives.) Here's an example of top-down objectives:
We'll see later what approach to take. But for now, be aware that there are two aspects to successful OKRs: the motivational and progress tracking aspect (think for instance of how you'd want to lose weight or learn a new language) and the group and social aspect (how goals interact and influence each other).