May 4, 2021

3 reasons businesses fail at implementing an OKR tool

Jatone Wilson
Jatone Wilson
Lead Implementation Manager at product mock -p-1080

Implementing an OKR tool at an organization is a great way to build alignment, transparency and efficiency throughout a company. OKR software allows individuals to focus on the work that truly matters and easily see how it aligns with the company’s top priorities. If you’re looking for an OKR tool to solve all of your business’s problems however, you’re going to shortly find out that’s not going to be the case. It’s important, if rolling out a tool, to make sure your organization is set up for success. Below are three reasons businesses fail at implementing an OKR tool, and how you can succeed. 

1. Lack of well-defined measurable goals for rolling out an OKR tool

Your organization first needs to be clear on what set of problems you want the tool to address and know how you will measure the success of it once you roll it out. I like to ask my customers when we’re doing implementations why they chose, what pain points or business problems they are hoping to solve, and how they will measure success of once they roll it out.

For some customers, the goal is very engagement oriented. They want 100% participation on OKRs so they are going to be looking at users logging into the system and making check-ins on those goals.

But for others, it’s very outcome focused, such as running better OKR meetings. I hear a lot of customers say that meetings are taking a lot of time, and that they are unorganized and turn into status updates. What they are looking for out of is to have all of their goals in one place so everyone knows what everyone is working on and ways to present out of how they are tracking against their goals.

My advice is to really set good goals for why you’re rolling out an OKR software and how you will measure the success of it. 

2. The belief that an OKR tool will solve all of your business problems 

An OKR tool is meant to bridge the gap where there are holes in your process, but sometimes it’s the process itself that needs refining. A business with an ineffective OKR process and untrained people that don’t understand OKRs, or the value they are going to bring and how it’s going to contribute to their success, is going to be set up for failure.

An organization will also fail if they don’t have a playbook or OKR plan in place and just try to start with software first instead of focusing on the strategy. Process and strategy should come first before the tool.

It’ll take a few quarters to a year to get really good at setting quality goals and getting everyone involved. It takes time to first set up the process.

I had one customer who was really just excited about the software and felt they’d get the hang of the process down the road. They didn’t want to take the time to really make sure their team understood the fundamentals of OKRs as they were rolling out the software.

So what happened is they rolled out the OKR tool, but then it went unused because people didn’t really understand what they were using it for or why it was even there, or what purpose it brought to the mission of the company. At the end of the day, strategy has to come first.

You shouldn’t expect to invest in an OKR tool to act as a Band-Aid to deeper issues with your process.

The best thing to do is before implementing an OKR tool, consider pain points with your OKR process, where you need help, where you want to improve, where you want to be and where you’re at now, and what your OKR maturity is.

Consider all of that and make sure it’s clear how that aligns to the OKR tool you choose and how it will help. An OKR tool will support your process, not create it for you.

3. Not “owning” the process

When you buy a new software, consider if there’s going to be a lot of change management involved. Sometimes it’s not as easy as turning on a light switch and then everything is just going to magically fall into place. There is a lot of business transformation that might need to happen when adopting and rolling out a new tool. It’s super important to have your internal champions and ambassadors help facilitate that change.

Consider nominating people to be advocates for the new OKR tool and OKR process. These people will work with their teams and help them become experts on the tool but also experts with OKRs. Advocates can help drive up excitement and awareness on OKRs internally, which can be a critical piece in making sure the program is successful.

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