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12 OKR traps to avoid

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The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework is a popular goal-setting method used by organizations to align and track progress towards their objectives. While effective when implemented correctly, there are common traps that organizations can fall into, hindering the overall impact of the OKR process. In this article, we outline 10 common OKR pitfalls to avoid.

  1. Time for feedback: To ensure the success of OKRs, it is crucial to allow time for feedback on the drafted OKRs. Final drafts should not be treated as such until feedback has been received from the broader organization.
  2. Limit the number of OKRs: Setting too many OKRs can lead to dilution of focus and reduced impact. By limiting the number of OKRs to three or less, you can ensure that your team stays focused and makes a significant impact. Narrowing your focus to a manageable number of goals will allow you to fully invest your energy and resources into achieving those specific outcomes.
  3. Limit the complexity of OKRs: It’s important to consider the level of detail and complexity of each OKR, as having too many broad and vague goals can be just as unproductive as having too many. By limiting the number of OKRs, you can ensure that each objective is well thought-out and clearly defined, leading to a greater likelihood of success.
  4. Accountable key results: To maximize impact, avoid sharing key results among OKR owners. Instead, set accountable, independent key results. If sharing OKRs with other stakeholders, there is a risk of not being able to prove impact or underperforming due to reliance on others.
  5. Measurable and growth-based key results: The most frequent mistake in OKRs is setting key results that are not measurable and do not drive business growth. Consider using the SMART goals approach to address this.
  6. Inaccessible OKRs: To maximize the impact of OKRs, it is necessary to have a transparent and open reporting solution that makes each owner’s OKRs accessible to everyone in the company.
  7. Incomplete coverage: Having incomplete coverage in terms of OKR ownership can result in misalignment within the organization. This means that different departments or teams may be working towards objectives that do not align with the overall goals and vision of the company. To avoid this, it is crucial to have OKR owners from across the business, especially at the manager level. This will ensure that each department or team has a clear understanding of the company’s objectives and is working towards achieving them. When OKRs are owned by individuals at the manager level, they can be responsible for communicating and ensuring alignment within their teams. This will help to create a unified and collaborative approach towards meeting the company’s goals, leading to greater success and impact.
  8. Transparency across the organisation: Transparency is an essential aspect of the OKR process. By having a transparent and open reporting solution (a.k.a. dedicated OKR software), everyone within the organization has access to the OKRs and can see what each department or team is working towards. This level of transparency helps to create a sense of accountability and ownership, as everyone is aware of the goals that need to be achieved and how their efforts contribute to the overall success of the company. Additionally, transparency helps to foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork, as everyone can see what their colleagues are working on and how they can support each other. When everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives, it becomes easier to align efforts, reduce duplicated work, and ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
  9. Performance buffer: To encourage teams to set ambitious OKRs, it is essential to build a performance buffer between the business model and the OKR results.
  10. OKRs are not a silver bullet: OKRs should not be considered the sole solution to achieve strategic success. Instead, they should be considered an approach to optimize the operational direction, efficiency, and outputs of the organization when aligned with the strategy.
  11. Project-based key results: It is essential to avoid setting key results that are project-based. For instance, “completing a strategy” is not a suitable objective or key result as it can only be measured in a binary fashion (complete/incomplete).
  12. Poor training and implementation: Clarity on how OKRs work is critical across the organisation. You’ll need to budget for regular check-ins during the implementation process so that everyone is on the same page as to how they work and what is expected of them. Check out this guide on implementing OKRs.

Avoiding these common OKR traps can greatly enhance the impact of the OKR process in achieving organizational objectives. Organizations must ensure that their OKRs are measurable, growth-based, accessible, and accountably set to maximize the impact of their OKR framework.