How to Use KPIs with OKRs

One of the most common questions we get asked about OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is whether or not they can be incorporated with KPIs. The answer is yes, and it’s easier than you may think, because any company that chooses to use OKRs will inevitably also use KPIs by default.

Before we get too far into our explanation, I think a critical first step is to define both OKRs and KPIs.

How to Use KPIs with OKRs

  • OKR or “Objectives and Key Results” is a goal-setting framework. For each OKR, there is an Objective to be achieved, along with a set of metrics that will measure they achievement of that Objective, called Key Results.
  • KPI or “Key Performance Indicator” determines factors needed to achieve success in an organization.

The Ultimate OKR Checklist [Most Downloaded]

Now, let’s take a closer look at how these two concepts work together:

OKRs Encompass KPIs

Let’s say you have an Objective pertaining to new customer acquisition. You might have a Key Result as follows: Grow New Customer Acquisition by 50% by the end of Q1.

We’ve highlighted in bold “New Customer Acquisition” because that represents the KPI for this specific KR. New customer acquisition is one factor that could determine the success of your company.

Here are some additional examples:

Increase gross profit margin to 30% for Q1. (KPI: gross profit margin)

Increase company revenue to $5M in Q3. (KPI: company revenue)

John Doerr OKRs & KPIs

As you can see, KRs intrinsically encompass KPIs.

With that being said, there are some general concepts that you may want to keep in mind when working with OKRs and KPIs.

Download the Ultimate List of OKR Goal Examples

Not All of Your KRs will Include Numbers

In some cases, you’ll find that some KRs may not directly include a KPI or a metric. In this instance, you’re more likely working with what’s referred to as a “milestone goal.” One such goal might be to launch a new marketing system, or any other similar concepts that can be measured based on whether or not they’ve been completed but are not associated with a direct number. In those cases, the milestone goal is still an important step that will ultimately contribute towards the success of KPIs.

Define Target Metrics that Reflect Your Priorities

When using OKRs, identify target metrics that are reflective of your company-wide priorities and core values. That way, you’ll effectively link the targeted outcomes to concrete metrics so everyone is on the same page as a team.

Create a Continuous Feedback Loop

In staying on target with OKRs and KPIs alike, you must establish a consistent, ongoing feedback loop so that managers and employees can check in regularly to discuss progress, expectations, and identify any possible bottlenecks. Use your weekly employee pulse reports and weekly one-on-one meetings to exchange such feedback on a regular basis.

Use S.M.A.R.T. Principles for Metrics in KRs

When you set KRs using metrics, make sure that they follow the S.M.A.R.T. criteria: Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Relevant, and Time-based.

Download the Ultimate List of OKR Goal Examples

Choose Among These 3 Types of Metrics

  1. Threshold Metrics – These metrics represent a range for which you can aim; falling anywhere in between this range would be acceptable. For instance, if sales needs to generate $200k in recurring revenue each quarter to break even in terms of cash flow, you then determine the metric necessary for revenue to stay positive, such as $220k per quarter. That creates a range of metrics that would be acceptable to hit and still encourages goal- and KPI-driven performance.
  2. Baseline Metrics – These represent the number that is considered acceptable; achieving anything less would be considered “missed.”
  3. Positive or Negative Metrics – This concept is simply an expansion of the baseline metric. For instance, if you are trying to decrease your support response time from 8 hours or more to less than 5, that’s a negative metric. If you’re looking to increase a figure, such as revenue, then you’re using a positive metric.

In time, you’ll establish a rhythm in which KPIs and OKRs work concurrently in your company, because if you use KPIs now and are incorporating OKRs, you’re essentially not “switching” approaches, you’re simply expanding upon and improving them to better facilitate your organizational priorities.

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!

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