People often ask for advice on how to overcome the common obstacles when they’re first starting out with OKR goals / Objectives and Key Results, so I decided to compile a list of the most common OKR goals mistakes. Once you get into a rhythm, you’ll be able to avoid making these mistakes in the first place, but in the meantime, here’s a guide on what you can do to quickly rectify any issues that may arise.
The BIGGEST MISTAKE: You’re Not Checking In Your OKR Goals with an Ongoing 2-Way Closed-Loop Feedback
This is by far the biggest OKR goals mistake of all. Without this, an OKR goals process will be useless. It is absolutely a critical Must-Do to ensure your company is checking-in on the OKR goals process regularly and that this check-in is an ongoing 2-way and closed-loop feedback (i.e. NOT a one-way, one-directional update from an employee to a manager!!!). If your OKR goals Check-In does not resemble a weekly one-on-one meeting then there’s no way you can ensure that your people or teams are executing effectively towards your OKR goals.
In fact, doing it weekly is optimal (just look at Deloitte Bersin research about companies that are 3.5x more likely to be in the top tier of their industry when the check-ins are frequent and regular). And these frequent check-ins must not just be a one-directional update but must be a 2-way closed-loop feedback where a manager can provide feedback to the employee and where an employee can provide feedback and clarity to the manager. This is a must!
Thus, you must have a 2-way dialogue about the OKR goals progress once per week to monitor the 8%-10% week-to-week execution of progress on the OKRs in order for them to be at 100% completion through the 12 weeks by the time the quarter ends.
You’re Using Wrong OKR Goal Timelines
For nearly all companies, a quarter is the right digestable time period for executing OKRs. It shouldn’t be monthly unless you really want to spend time setting new OKR goals 12 times per year. And it is definitely not weekly. If you set your OKR goals quarterly then you just need to check in on them weekly and therefore each week you can make 8%-10% progress. Any shorter and there may not be adequate time to execute 3-4 OKRs; any longer and you’re probably working with goals instead of objectives. It’s fine to have top few annual goals for the company, but for teams and individuals you’ll run the risk of disengagement if you don’t set them quarterly.
You’re on OKR Overload
Perhaps you set too many OKRs, and now you’re scrambling to keep up with them all. The solution may be painful at first, but in reality it’s quite simple – take a look and determine which is the least important. Then, cut it for this quarter (you don’t have to do this on your own – you can collaborate w/others to decide) You can always revisit it later. Moving forward, make sure you impose a 3-4 OKR limit for each team, department, and/or individual.
ALL of Your OKRs are Aspirational
It’s fine to have some objectives that will be challenging to meet, but they shouldn’t all feel impossible. The fix is to balance some of these with operational ones – objectives that you know your team can meet – so that spirits aren’t broken when your people only hit about 70% of the aspirational objectives.
You Ignore the Weekly Small Wins
You have to read this article from Harvard Business Review on “The Power of Small Wins” and this applies perfectly to making progress on OKR goals at your organization. This Harvard Business School professor also wrote the book “The Progress Principle” if you’re interested in learning more.
Your employees want to feel that they are making progress and that they’re doing a good job when they’re consistently working hard to accomplish their OKR goals. You must give praise when it’s due, especially each week – and avoid being too focused on really large future results because everyone is instead focused on the hard work they’ve already put in for that week.
You’re Either Forcing Metrics or not Using Any Metrics
It’s okay if your Key Result of the Ojbective is a milestone that is just measured in % terms or as “complete” or “incomplete.” You do not need to force a quantified metric if you want to just get started with a baseline, qualitative milestone. Do not force a square peg into a round hole! But if none of your Key Results have numbers then you may want to go back and revisit them.
You’re Using OKRs as Tasks
Since I can’t say it better than Google, just look at what Google’s re:Work on OKR Goals which states about OKRs: “One thing OKRs are not is a checklist. They are not intended to be a master task like… Use OKRs to define the impact the team wants to see, and let the teams come up with the methods of achieving that impact.”
OKR Goals are NOT tasks! OKR Goals are about outcomes or results, not about activities. Remember the phrase, activity does not equal results? Being busy doesn’t mean you are accomplishing results.
So just note these definitions.
- A task is something that you do.
- A project is an initiative – to complete your project, you have to do various tasks.
- A goal, an OKR goal or an objective, is what you want to achieve and you usually have to complete a combination of various projects in order to attain your goal.
For instance, “review notes from speaker’s presentation” is not a KR (though it might be a task) – but “attend 3 tradeshows/conferences” is, because it has a number with it and can be completed over the course of a quarter.
There’s a solution to virtually all OKR mistakes, especially in the beginning. Have you made any OKR mistakes that I didn’t include on this list?
Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!