OKR 101

OKR mistakes and pitfalls to avoid

OKRs can be a powerful tool to drive company-wide alignment, increase focus, revitalize employee engagement, empower better decision making, enhance agility, and more.

However, in order to take advantage of these benefits, there are a few things you should avoid when building your program. Here is a short list of common mistakes organizations tend to make when implementing this popular goal-setting framework.

OKRs are not challenging enough.

As opposed to traditional goal-setting, in which goals are designed to be achievable and realistic, OKRs are meant to be aspirational and push the business to grow. The OKR framework should help you set challenging—even uncomfortable—goals that stretch boundaries, encourage innovation, and tackle ambitious objectives. 

A good guideline is that you want to hit about 70% of your OKRs. If you are completing closer to 100% of them, it’s a sure sign you need to re-work these OKRs so they are a bit more challenging. Don’t just go for the easy wins.


Learn more about how to build risk into your company culture and set aspirational goals for your organization

OKRs are stagnant.

Today’s business environment requires organizations to regularly adapt, transition, or transform in order to remain competitive. That’s why agility is one of the best indicators of long-term organizational performance. When OKRs are not designed to be adaptable to change, they will not function as they were intended to. 

To keep OKRs agile, hold weekly OKR reviews to assess which goals are on track and which are at risk of falling behind. This allows decision-makers to reprioritize efforts if needed, or to shift around resources in order to support key initiatives. 

Learn more about OKR agility with these resources:

How To Stay Agile With OKRs 

When To Change Goals Mid-Cycle To Get Your Team On Track 

“Setting and forgetting” OKRs.

When getting started with OKRs, it’s all too easy to fall into the pitfalls of “setting and forgetting” your goals. This can cause your team to lose sight of goals and work in silos, disconnected from the big picture. 

OKRs are meant to be flexible and iterative, meaning they require regular check-ins to make sure everything is on track. When you integrate OKRs into the software you already use and build weekly processes into your OKR program that allow you to learn from the journey, you’re more likely to stay on track and reap the incredible benefits that the OKR methodology has to offer.

okr mistakes and pitfalls

Make checking in easy. Use an OKR software that integrates the tools you’re already using.

OKRs lack focus.

When starting out with OKRs, it can be tempting to use the framework like a to-do list, but this is never a good idea. Having too many OKRs will cause priorities to become murky and your team will lose track of what matters most to the organization. 

One key benefit of the OKR framework is its ability to increase focus, and it is best practice to have no more than 3-5 objectives and key results per quarter. By focusing on only the most critical outcomes, organizations can increase the chance that those outcomes will be achieved. This results in efficient, productive teams that are able to drive business results.

Create focus in your organization by following OKR best practices and learning how to prioritize with OKRs.

OKR outcomes cannot be quantified. 

When using OKRs it’s important to remember that while objectives become big-picture goals, key results must be measurable in order to determine whether or not the goal was achieved. No matter how inspirational an outcome may sound, if you can’t track whether or not you have reached that outcome, it is of no use to your organization.

okr mistakes

OKRs are all about metrics—by setting measurable key results, you’ll be able to assess the progress of your initiatives, and understand whether you achieved your goals.

Check out these OKR examples and templates and read about how to write effective OKRs to get started.

OKRs are not universally adopted.

okr pitfalls

When only a part of the team is aware of and using OKRs, it is impossible for this system to be truly powerful. A main benefit of OKRs is the way they increase company-wide alignment and transparency, which can’t occur without buy-in and participation from the whole team.

Get your organization all rowing in the same direction to take full advantage of everything OKRs have to offer.

For more information about getting your team on board, check out these resources:

The 7 Most Common OKR Problems & How To Address Them 

Why Are OKRs Important For Leadership 

OKRs are linked to employee compensation.

Although it’s great to reward your employees for a job well done, monetary rewards do not play well within the OKR framework. OKRs should empower employees to push limits and take risks to help the business grow. When you base employee compensation on whether or not a goal is successful, you are creating a penalty for failure. This can cause employees to be less likely to push creative boundaries, and innovation within your business will suffer as a result.

OKRs can be used to revitalize employee engagement without affecting compensation by ensuring employees can see that the work they’re doing — alongside their team and cross-functional partners — is contributing to organizational success. OKRs make that happen. Because every individual has their own objectives to work toward, OKRs instill a sense of purpose, accountability, and autonomy. And, because they’re keeping a close pulse on progress with key results, there’s motivation to keep moving the needle and turn goals into results.

Learn how to boost productivity with meaningful goal setting and recognition

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