He is the founder and OKR coach at Visualise Solutions – a UK-based business consultancy specializing in Lean startup practices. In this Voices of OKR piece, Andrew talks about the top 3 mistakes that he’s seen organizations make when setting OKRs.
OKRs is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results. This is the method of working in a collaborative nature to create goals with measurable results. OKRs were made famous after being credited for helping startup companies like Google focus and drive massive growth. They are all about tracking your progress, building alignment, and being measurable in a quantifiable nature.
There are many mistakes that I have seen during my coaching engagements with both early-stage, fast-growing startups and scaling businesses. These can range from simple administrative issues to wider strategic issues around company buy-in. There are many books and articles written around these subjects, with the blog from Gtmhub being a great location to understand these issues in greater detail.
But, this article is going to be too short of addressing these, so I will outline my top 3 mistakes that managers and business owners make when setting OKRs in their companies. By not falling into these traps, you will be much more effective in implementing OKRs, and you will be on the right track to build a culture of measurable results to drive performance.
Mistake #1: OKRs Turn into a To-Do List
The most successful companies that implement OKRs focus on the core elements of their businesses and don’t get caught up with factors that are not important. OKRs are tough, and when implementing, you need to make tough choices about these Objectives and Key Results. If you find that your OKR’s are turning into a To-Do list, refocus on the essential elements of business and give your team focus to achieve their results; otherwise, you run the risk of creating a culture whereby there is no focus on anything.
Mistake #2: OKRs are too Easy or Too Hard
Remember, OKRs should be realistic but also should stretch the team. During my coaching engagements, I have found that teams focus on OKRs that are either too easy, which means the teams complete these without trying or are entirely unrealistic leading to failure. As a rule of thumb, I expect teams to achieve around 70–80% of an Objective in a given period. If your accomplishment is more or less than this, then you may want to re-evaluate your OKRs moving forward.
Mistake #3: Teams Don’t Track Them
OKRs are quantitative and need to be measurable and driven by data. Far too many teams formulate a thorough OKR regime, spending time discussing and debating the structure of the OKRs, but then fail to keep track of this. Failing to monitor OKRs defeats the objective of the process; this needs to be monitored by regular check-ins, assessment, and accountability at the end of the defined period.
OKRs are a powerful method to focus teams and drive growth within a startup, scale-up or established business, and ensure you don’t fall into the outlined traps, which will help you implement these in a better manner.
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