Dispelling the Top 25 OKR Myths

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) have become the modern-day goal-setting methodology of choice for many companies today. Even more companies are contemplating the protocol to improve strategy execution. Although Andy Grove of Intel is the recognized “godfather” of OKRs, and John Doerr of “Measure What Matters” fame is the Johnny Appleseed of the process, there are a plethora of other disciples preaching the discipline.

It is said that OKRs are a simple methodology with a simple language. It’s common knowledge that there are no hard and fast rules, and there is no GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). OKRs are considered open source.

Much of what has been written of OKRs, taught by consultants, and espoused by OKR Software providers, is open to interpretation. As a result, we have misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and outright “Myths” about the process.

We’ll address the top 25 of these “Myths” and attempt to clarify or dispel the inaccurate. To inform the discussion, we’ll reference two trusted sources; “Measure What Matters,” by John Doerr, and “Objectives and Key Results, Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement” by Paul Niven and Ben Lamorte.

OKR Myths Debunked

  1. OKRs should be “Aspirational” – if you get to 70% then that’s good – OKRs, as used by Google, can be either Aspirational or Committed. For Aspirational goals, 70% is, in fact, an acceptable score. 100% of Committed goals should be achieved.
  2. You have to write and word OKRs perfectly and make sure your OKR process is perfect on day 1 – Doerr uses the phrase that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Begin with OKRs as accurate as possible, and your teams will improve over time.
  3. OKRs have many requirements, and you have to learn many new rules – There are no hard and fast rules of OKRs, no GAAP. As Larry Page of Google would say, “Take it as a blueprint and make it yours.
  4. You can easily implement OKRs with Excel or spreadsheets – Partly true, many companies use a spreadsheet for the first cycle or two of goal-setting. After that, a dedicated, cloud-based OKR Software platform will make the protocol scalable and sustainable.
  5. You must divorce compensation from OKRs – This one is mostly true, Doerr does recommend divorcing compensation from OKRs. However, many consultants believe Committed goals, such as a sales goal, can be considered for compensation.
  6. OKRs only work well in a tech environment – Not true, although OKRS were introduced in tech companies, today many companies in other sectors use OKRs; such as BMW, Walmart, Kroger, etc.
  7. If you are doing OKRs, you don’t need to do CFRs – Absolutely not true. If you don’t include CFRs in the OKR protocol, you are not doing the methodology or your company justice.
  8. Committed OKRs and Aspirational OKRs are graded on the same curve – Not so, as previously stated, Committed goals should be achieved at 100%, every time, and Aspirational goals may be considered a success at 70%.
  9. OKRs are a top-down management philosophy – Unlike its predecessor, MBOs, OKRs are bi-directional, top-down and bottom-up.
  10. Weekly Check-Ins tend to consume and waste management’s time – Actually Check-Ins can prove to be time-savers as these short, one on one conversations often replace much longer, less productive weekly meetings.
  11. OKRs are meant to drive execution throughout the organization; however, they are not required of senior management – In a true OKR execution, everyone does OKRs, everyone.
  12. Setting OKRs are simple, just create a list of required activities – Neither Objectives nor Key Results should be a rote list of activities. They should be specific, concise, measurable, and time-bound.
  13. Setting OKRs are difficult, where do I go for inspiration – With the assistance of a Customer Success Manager from your OKR Software provider your initial OKRs will be reflective of your Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan.
  14. Key Results must include a number – In most instances, Key Results will include a number, however, provided the KR is measurable and time-bound it is not mandatory that there be a number.
  15. If you always achieve 100% on your OKRs, you have mastered the methodology – False, if you are always achieving 100% of your OKRs you are not stretching the organization sufficiently.
  16. Once an OKR is set you must see it through to completion – OKRs are not set in stone. They may be added to, adapted, even canceled if market conditions dictate. Conversely, if the OKR remains viable, it may be rolled from quarter to quarter, even year to year until achieved.
  17. OKRs are a simple methodology, training and pilot implementations, not required – Although OKRs are a simple methodology with a simple language adequate training on the process and the software are highly recommended.
  18. OKRs are always generated by senior leadership – Not always, Doerr gives several examples in “Measure What Matters” of OKRs being identified at a lower level and adopted by the entire organization.
  19. OKR Software is costly with a low ROI – Not true. OKR Software may be the single most cost-effective investment an organization can make. Google has been using OKRs for nearly twenty years to generate 10X-type results.
  20. OKRs only work in more mature organizations – Doerr refers to OKRs as a “Swiss Army Knife,” adaptable to any type organization and at any life-stage of a company; start-up, scaling up, and mature.
  21. Your Mission, Vision, and Strategy are understood by your workforce – False, a HBR study tells us that over 90% of the workforce doesn’t know the company’s primary objectives or understand how their efforts contribute to its achievement.
  22. Andy Grove of Intel created OKRs as an entirely new process – OKRs represent the evolution of Peter Drucker’s MBOs and SMART goals.
  23. OKRs are virtually the same as MBOs – Although similar, OKRs have a different cadence, quarterly versus annual, and OKRs feature bottom-up goal-setting as well as top-down.
  24. The OKR process is owned by HR – Possibly, the protocol tends to reside in different departments for different companies; Finance, HR, Strategic Planning.
  25. Scoring and Grading OKRs is not required – False, Scoring and Grading create a culture of accountability. Failed OKRs require a postmortem. Learnings are carried forward to future quarters for continuous improvement in execution.

We hope you found this exercise helpful and it answered questions you might have about the process.

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!

Image Credit: Stockvault

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