Common OKR mistakes to avoid

Objectives and Key Results is a robust methodology. It can align your team around common goals and motivate them to reach beyond the team limits. However, some companies implement it the wrong way and don't experience any benefits of OKRs. In this article, we'll share how to avoid the most popular OKR mistakes.

1. Expecting immediate results

OKRs take time to implement, get used to them, and refine the process. Most likely, you'll start experiencing benefits of adopting the system only after the second or third cycle. Have the patience to stick to the process and not quitting too early. The experience of hundreds of companies shows that OKRs are effective.

2. Blindly copying Google's approach

Google made OKRs popular, and many companies try to their steps. However, when copying Google, take into account that they are a huge corporation with a long history of setting OKR methodology. For small companies that only start with Objectives, you'd most likely:
  • want to start with rooftops, not moonshots;
  • begin with shorter OKR cycles;
  • create the right environment in your team so that OKRs would foster.
Here is a detailed explanation of why Google OKRs would most likely not work for your team.

3. Too many Objectives or Key Results

OKR methodology is designed to focus your team around what matters. A good practice is to have 3-5 Objectives per department, with 3-5 Key Results for each department. OKRs are not intended to replace your To-Do lists or project management. OKRs should be the representation of your top priorities. A good practice is to focus on team-level Objectives only, without breaking them down to the individual level Objectives.

4. Starting with too challenging moonshot Objectives

There are two main types of Objectives: moonshots (that you aim to achieve by 70-80%) and rooftops (that you plan to hit 100%). Setting only moonshots, in the beginning, might demoralize your team. It's depressing, missing your goals every single time. Give your team a chance to get used to the methodology by setting rooftops the first 2-3 cycles, and then switching to moonshots after that.

5. Setting OKRs top-down only

Each team and team member should be able to set at least 50% of their OKRs themselves. This level of autonomy would increase motivation and accountability. OKR is not intended to be an authoritative way for your management to set goals behind the closed doors. It should be a collaborative process that involves your teammates and allow them to figure out for themselves how they can contribute.

6. Connecting OKRs and performance reviews

Objectives are designed to be aspirational. And good practice is to achieve your Objectives by 70-80%. If you try to include OKR results in your performance reviews, your team members would naturally lower their OKR results. They'd make sure to hit them by 100% to get the next promotion. It would make the whole OKR process ineffective. Individual OKR easily falls into this trap. That's why we highly recommend avoiding individual OKRs and focusing only on team-level Objectives.

7. Not communicating and not checking often enough

OKRs are not about "set it and forget it." They should be easily accessible and for your team. Hang them in your office, display them on the monitor, pin to your #team Slack channel. And conduct regular weekly check-ins, and middle OKR grading to stay focused and resolve any blockers fast. We recommend assigning an OKR master that would remind the team when to grade and when to set the next Objectives. It increases the chance of successful adoption of the OKRs.

Summary

Objectives and Key Results can create alignment in your team and engage all employees to focus on what matters. Avoid the mistakes above and achieve breakthrough results for your organization with OKRs.

Check out a free OKR tool Plai that allows you to set up custom Objectives cycles and manage OKRs more effectively.
13 August / 2019
Author: Andriy Bas
co-founder & CEO Plai

Related articles
Subscribe to our newsletter
* By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy.