10 mistakes to avoid while writing OKRs

10 mistakes to avoid while writing OKRs

OKR - Objective and Key Results is a goal setting framework which is often considered as the secret sauce for Google's success. In 1999, John Doerr introduced this concept to Larry Page and Sergrey Brin, the brainchild of Google.

John customized the OKR according to the environment at Google. If you are starting out, you just can't go ahead with what Google did. You are bound to experiment OKR with your company as well. OKR is not a complicated concept, but there are few mistakes you should avoid while drafting one for your organization.

You will figure out your perfect OKR methodology after 2-4 quarters. In the meanwhile, make sure you've gone through this checklist to know what you should avoid.

Aspirational OKR or Impossible OKR?

There is a thin line of difference between setting ambitious goals and impossible goals.

While creating your OKRs, you need to understand that the idea behind aspirational OKRs was to challenge your employees to step out of their comfort zone. But if your OKR is too aspirational, it would merely demotivate the employees right from the start.

It is fine to have a few challenging OKRs but make sure your team is particular about attaining even 60- 70 % of it.

After all, your employee's productivity shouldn't face a fall for not delivering a 100%

OKR as an evaluation tool

The fundamental purpose of OKR is to push your employees for operational excellence.

The OKR usually lies within the success scale of 70 %. Hence, if you append compensation with it, the fear of failure won't allow them to take up challenges.

This might backfire if used as an HR tool, as employees won't set aspirational goals to gain that due compensation.

Keeping OKR Private

OKR is not meant to be a document which only stays with the Manager and responsible employee. It is important you share your OKRs with entire company.

Using OKR as a communication tool, many managers are changing the dynamics of strategic communication. It updates individuals about an organization's priorities.

When you use OKR at every functional level, it results in smooth inter-dependencies and better communication at different hierarchical levels.

OKRs with a Timeline - but not long enough.

All the major companies release their reports quarterly, hence making it feasible to analyze and evaluate their performance.  

Your OKRs should also follow a similar timeline period for effective execution.

If you plan to set OKRs monthly, imagine investing time and resources to repeat the same procedure for 12 times a year. And setting up weekly OKRs are of no use.

Annual OKRs can be approached if they are aligned with vital company goals. Otherwise, they would only lead to disengagement and kill productivity across your teams and individuals.

Digital Marketing

Read this blog to understand how you can use OKR for your Digital Marketing Firm

Dodge OKRs

In this fast-paced environment, trends tend to pivot at any point in time. If you have OKRs set for an extended period of time, it is important to keep a regular check whether they align with impending trends and company goals.

It is okay to abandon an OKR if it is not relevant to you any longer. Make sure the OKR you set aligns with your organization's growth.

It is not just about numbers

Do not force a number at places it is not required, just like forcing a square peg in a round hole. The Key Results you set should have a meaning and purpose behind it. Don't use random number just to start somewhere.

It is not necessary to thrust a number in your KR. You can also use 3x-2x times, % or just complete/ incomplete to define the measurability of your Key Results.

OKRs are not Tasks

On a serious note, OKRs are NOT tasks.

A task is something you have to complete in a limited period of time, and you can compromise on the quality of output. OKR is a qualitative - result or outcome based goal-setting process, a combination of various tasks and initiatives.

Use an OKR to define the impact your objective will create in any quarter and which key results will help in accomplishing that objective. Make sure your OKRs are impact-driven, and not task-based where certain activities will lead to your organization's growth.

Vague Objectives

Objectives like "Increase efficiency" or "Gain engagement" are confusing and ineffective. Your objective should not include just fancy motivating words, they should be backed by a significant organizational goal.

While structuring OKRs, make sure your objective provides a clear direction to your employees. And not just leave them in their own bubble. Instead of "Gain engagement," write "Engagement on Website via Blogs" and pair it with suitable KRs. When you look back at your objectives, you should know whether you have achieved progress in it or not.

Set it- Forget it!

This is the biggest mistake we've come across. Once you set up OKRs, managers, and employees usually tend to forget about it. Later, when the quarter nears its end, they realize that they're way off track. Hence it is necessary that you carry out regular checkups on the progress of your OKRs.

It is optimal to have a weekly track of how well your OKRs are doing, whether it is being executed effectively or not. The feedback meeting should not be unidirectional but should follow a closed loop system.

A framework where both managers and employees can give feedback to maintain clarity and effectiveness of an OKR will prove out to be effective in long term.

Is that a To-Do list or OKR?

If you ever come across this question while framing OKRs, remember that's a caution for OKR overload. If you set up too many OKRs, you might end up shuffling between them, and tracking their progress can be another cumbersome job.

The solution to this can be figuring out what are your organization’s top priorities and then cutting off the OKRs which do not align with them. You can include them in another quarter if you want.

It is ideal to have 3-4 Objective with maximum 5 Key Results per quarter for a team/ Individual or department for attainable outcomes. It will make your goals manageable and structured.

These are the few mistakes you should avoid while writing OKRs. If we have missed any, let us know in the comments below.