March 13, 2017

Overcoming Common OKR Mistakes

3 ways to avoid making mistakes when using the ORKs approachIf only using the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) approach were as easy as setting the objectives and key results for your organization and then sitting back and watching your achievements roll in.

Unfortunately, this is never the case.

In fact, there are a number of common mistakes that organizations make that can take you off track. 

One of the biggest is having a one-way conversation about the OKRs. Rather than using OKRs as a way to encourage dialogue, some managers use them as a way to ask for status updates and hold employees accountable.

This approach minimizes the benefit of OKRs because clarity around organizational goals and collaboration among team members is lost.

Another mistake I see is that an organization will set too many OKRs and then scramble just to stay on top of all of them. When this happens, the goal becomes checking the box on the OKR, rather than actually meeting the objective.

Finally, organizations will use the OKRs like a master task list of everything that needs to happen. OKRS define the ultimate impact the organization wants to see, not its to-do list. If OKRs morph into an unmanageable list of tasks, your team may be busy but not necessarily achieving results.


Help your team think about whether or not these common mistakes are preventing your organization from benefiting from the OKR approach. If any one of the above strikes a nerve, here’s how to get back on track:

Engage in two-way conversation: OKRs are meant to spark two-way conversations with employees providing feedback on the key results and objectives as they work. This is a great way to build employee engagement because you are involving your team in a very real way in the discussion of goals and the future of the organization. Using each OKR as a foundation for a weekly meeting with that team will result in better focus, collaboration and engagement. This also allows you to celebrate weekly wins so that every team feels they’re making progress and doing a good job.

Remember less is more: So don’t panic. Instead, prioritize and involve your team in deciding which key results to include and which to shift. You can always revisit items that are less important at a later date. If you insist on having only 3 to 4 OKRs each quarter, you’ll be able to accomplish what you set out to do.

Make OKRs about impact, not micromanagement: Use your OKRs to define the impact the team wants to see and then let the team itself come up with the ways to achieve that impact. If your OKRs look more like a checklist or to-do list, you need to step back and make sure they’re actually about outcomes and results and not tasks and activities. Your team needs the freedom to adjust tasks and activities on their own to better achieve annual and quarterly OKRs. 

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