Top 9 Problems of Using Spreadsheets to Track OKRs (And Why You Absolutely Need OKR Software)

In his New York Times bestseller, “Measure What Matters,” author John Doerr defines OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as “a management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization.” In several passages, Doerr mentions the simplicity of the OKR goal-setting process.

Many companies new to the process mistake its simple language and design for being easy to set, track and manage. Set a few goals, with accompanying Key Results, and measure performance. Such a simple process you could execute it via Excel or Google Spreadsheets, no.

Here are nine key reasons why using shared docs or spreadsheets rather than OKR software is a disaster in the making!

Spreadsheets Won’t Help You Set OKRs Correctly

Spreadsheets won’t educate you or help you implement OKRs. But, a good SaaS solution and a partner (with a Customer Success Manager who is there to help) will absolutely work with you to help you every step of the way to launch out of the gate successfully.

Employees Will Delete Data, Erase Cells or Make Other Mistakes in Spreadsheets

What if someone signs in to shared documents and inadvertently edits another person’s or team’s OKRs. How do you know? Who will spend the time and expend the effort to correct the misinformation? What if an individual or team doesn’t update on a timely basis. Who will be responsible for compliance? Who will chase down the non-performers? Do you really want to allocate a programmer’s time trying to develop a process for automatic updates and self-corrections?

You Cannot Align OKRs in Spreadsheets

One of the OKR Superpowers cited in Doerr’s book is Connectivity & Alignment, alignment being one of the greatest benefits of an OKR implementation. How will you align goals in a spreadsheet system? How will you cascade one goal to another? How are you going to assign Key Results for alignment throughout the organization? How will spreadsheet design highlight cross-dependencies and encourage teamwork and collaboration?

You Can’t See the Visual Goal Alignment Chart in Spreadsheets

A key benefit of OKR software is the ability to see how goals cascade through the organization. In a true OKR system, everyone can see the goals of other teams and individuals, all the way to the CEO’s Objectives. This visibility which creates alignment is virtually impossible when using spreadsheets.

You Would Waste an Exorbitant Amount of Time (and Cost) to Create and Update Dashboards and Charts Across the Organization

An attempt at an OKR execution using spreadsheets would require the development of dashboards, and linkage for teams and contributors where cross-dependencies are essential. If even possible, this effort could become incredibly complex and costly. Your programmers and developers time is valuable. Why allocate resources to an initiative that is doomed from the start when there is a plug and play alternative, (OKR software solutions) available?

You Can’t Do CFRs in Spreadsheets (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition)

You probably already read in Measure What Matters by John Doerr where he states that CFRs are critical to the OKR goal-setting process. No doubt that CFRs, Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition play a critical role and breathe life into the OKRs. They are the logical adjunct to OKRs and provide the “human voice” to the methodology. How will the Conversations and Feedback be communicated in real-time to enable course corrections, and how will Recognition be addressed in a spreadsheet system?

We believe CFRs are critical to the OKR system, see our blog “How to Use CFRs & OKRs for Better Execution.” As we state in this blog, if you don’t intend to use CFRs we suggest you not attempt OKRs. They mutually support the process, and one doesn’t perform in the absence of the other. Not implementing CFRs is the #1 reason for OKR execution failure.

OKRs can be a shock to the established order of a company. OKRs without CFRs can become a complete disturbance to the organization.

Can’t Get Automated Notifications or Group Communications on OKRs in a Spreadsheet

If you use shared docs or spreadsheets to track OKRs, you must have everyone in the organization manually write and track their OKRs to a spreadsheet. In a true OKR environment, the one “must do” is frequent Check-Ins to track progress and provide feedback. Best practices say that weekly Check-Ins are the preferred cadence. How do you communicate these progress reports and the feedback? The logical answer is through email. How many emails might that require? How many employees do you have, fifty, one-hundred, five-hundred? Which department has the time or desire to do that?

You Need to Chase People Across the Whole Company (and All the Time) to Update OKRs in a Spreadsheet

Another key benefit of OKRs is agility. Objectives are set on a quarterly basis, and Check-Ins are conducted weekly. This cadence and frequency of feedback are crucial for real-time learning, the elimination of hurdles, course-correction, and improvements to subsequent quarters goals.

Who has the time in your organization to administer compliance manually? Who will collect, assess, and disseminate updates to management?

You Don’t Have Privacy on Discussing OKR Progress in the Spreadsheet

In this article, we’ve stressed the crucial importance of CFRs in an OKR implementation. A shared spreadsheet execution will not provide privacy in discussions regarding OKR progress, roadblocks, and bi-directional feedback.

CFRs encourage mentoring, coaching, and discussions regarding forward momentum, additional training needed or desired. Not all this information is suited for public viewing in shared documents.

A Disaster in the Making

Do you really want to devote hour upon hour of senseless, cumbersome, arduous effort to administration? We believe this is the antithesis of focusing on what matters. We have anecdotal and statistical data from our customers who started OKRs in Excel or Spreadsheets and failed. Once they moved to a dedicated OKR platform with OKRs and CFRs, they realized the execution success they were seeking.

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 OKRs? 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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