July 12, 2021

How risk boosts the bottom line

Kevin Shively
VP of Marketing at

“Risk” gets a bad rap, and that’s a shame. So, we’re making a case today for the role of risk in business, supported by results from our 2021 Goal Management Report. In fact, we’re so in favor of taking risks, that we actually built our business around it (more on that later).

Instead of focusing on the things that can go wrong when a risk is taken in business, we ought to implement processes and establish frameworks that allow us to capitalize on the benefits of risk-taking. If not, we squander opportunities for innovation, improvement, and business results. Let us show you what we mean.


The fear of failure

To better understand under what circumstances employees will take risk, we turned to our Goal Management survey results. What we found was a stark difference in risk perceptions between employees with a goal framework in place, and those without.

According to our survey, nearly two-thirds (62%) of employees who use a goal management framework worry about not reaching their goals. And yet, 73% of them feel empowered to take risks despite the chance of failure. In comparison, only 53% of employees who don’t use a goal framework could say the same.

But what does that data really tell us? It suggests that without a structure in place for setting and reaching goals, employees lack the ambition to innovate and are hindered by a fear of failure. In contrast, employees working toward set goals are engaged enough to worry about whether they’ll reach them and empowered enough to take the necessary risks to get there.

This willingness is what drives innovation, which in turn drives business growth and opportunity. Companies should be doing everything they can to empower their employees to innovate and support them in the process so things can’t go totally awry. We can see that goal frameworks are fantastic tools for this, but not all are equally effective.

Empowering employees the way

Employees working in an environment with an OKR program report feeling more empowered to take risks than employees using other goal frameworks (76% versus 77.4%, respectively). Taking it a step further supercharges this aspect of company culture, with 88% of customers saying they feel empowered to take risks.

The result of that empowerment? Higher performing teams and faster business growth. In fact, 80% of customers say their use of the platform has created a higher-performing team, and 62% say it’s led to faster growth for their business.

The secret sauce

What makes the way so impactful at enabling risk? For starters, the OKR methodology itself is built upon a foundation of focus, alignment, and transparency. It gets everyone tracking toward the same goals, while also allowing room for unforeseen challenges and obstacles. In other words, an OKR program is designed to tolerate failure. software centers around these fundamentals, so they become the core of our OKR programs. One way we do this is by encouraging aspirational goals. Different from committed goals that are almost guaranteed to be achieved, these are ambitious, stretch goals that may be more challenging to reach, but have a worthwhile payoff. By designing a program that encourages organizations to push the boundaries and accomplish more, we set you up to “fail forward.”

This means we’ve built in processes that use progress (or a lack thereof) to inform future successes. Some of the methods are simple: integrations and notifications make updating progress a habitual activity for every employee across the organization. This way, teams and leaders are always armed with real-time information on how they are pacing against set targets, setting them up for weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews, where there’s ample opportunity to reflect on the work that’s being done, address setbacks or blockers, and adjust accordingly.

Other methods are less simple. At the end of a cycle, all OKRs get reviewed and scored on how well an objective was accomplished. This is a thorough exercise that occurs throughout the organization, but it pays in spades. In some cases, objectives simply don’t get completed. In our world, that’s alright. OKRs that are still a priority can roll over to the next planning cycle.

This agility normalizes failure within an organization, making it an accepted and anticipated part of business operations rather than an end-all event. In doing so, employees are able to operate within a culture that’s set up to take risks and learn from the outcomes. In the long run, this OKR journey – one that’s empowering, agile, and informative – can bring an organization incredible success.

Want to learn more about how to support an upward OKR journey? Download the OKR Maturity Model now.

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