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Aspirational OKRs vs Committed OKRs: Types of OKRs and Differences

There are two types of OKR goals you can set one is committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs. Let us learn how they are different and which one is right for your organization.
Sagrika Mehta

Sagrika Mehta

Aspirational OKRs

There are always two types of goals one which you can achieve and one which you aspire to achieve. The same is in the case of OKRs. There are two types of OKRs goal: committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs. 

Both committed and aspirational OKRs define different purposes and have separate methods to achieve them.

If you are someone new to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), this information can be overwhelming. You can check out the basics of OKRframework here.

Let’s start by knowing what the committed and aspirational goals mean-

What do committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs mean?

Let’s understand their meanings with simple examples-

Daniel’s organization and his teams have agreed to execute certain OKRs and have mapped a precise action plan on how they are going to do so. 

– These are called Committed OKRs.  

Martha’s organization is more visionary. They have stretched goals. And her teams are not likely to fully achieve these ambitious goals.– Thes are called Aspirational OKRs. 

Aspirational OKRs and Committed OKRs: key differences

Committed OKRs are normal goal-setting commitments that people in your organization have made. These OKRs are to be achieved at different levels of your organization. And individuals and teams will have to adjust their resources and schedules to make sure the objectives are fulfilled. 

Aspirational OKRs, on the other hand, are the “moonshots” you aim for. They encapsulate how we’d like the world to look. Aspirational OKRs are also referred to as 10x goals or ambitious goals.

Larry Page in “Measure What Matters” expresses the concept of aspirational OKRs as, “If you set a crazy, ambitious goal and miss it, you’ll still achieve something remarkable.” 

Unlike committed OKRs, aspirational OKRs, don’t come with a defined path to arrive at the desired position. It doesn’t require real knowledge of the resources you will need on the path.

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Aspirational OKRs can be done in both quarterly and annual cycles. They might even be changed or reassigned as per the team requirements. 

When graded, the committed OKRs are expected to score 1.0. Any grade lower than that will amplify the scope of adjustment in planning and/or execution. And ask for a discussion.

On the other hand, the expected score of an aspirational OKR is 0.7. But even with the 70% achievement target, it leaves lots of room for variance.

While talking about committed and aspirational OKRs, the former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Patti Stonesifer, says that “Until you set a really big goal, like vaccinating every child everywhere, you can’t find out which lever or a mix of levers is most important.

Our annual strategy reviews began with: ‘What is the objective here? Is it eradication or is it expanding the reach of vaccines?’ Then we could get more practical with our key results… You need those key results to align your everyday activities, and over time you keep moving them to be even more ambitious against that really big goal.” (in “Measure What Matters.” )

Committed and aspirational OKR examples

The difference between committed and aspirational OKRs is subtle.

For instance, a sales team committed and aspirational OKR might be:

Committed OKRs

  • O: Expand to the US market
    • KR1: Close first 6 start-ups
    • KR2: Get a meeting-to-close rate of 6%
    • KR3: Reach average deal size of $200

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Aspirational OKRs

  • O: Capture the entire US market in one quarter
    • KR1: Get onboard 95 percent of big customers in the US market to grow over competitors 
    • KR2: Get a meeting-to-close rate of 30%
    • KR3: Reach average deal size of $2000

The above examples clearly depict the difference. As mentioned, the committed OKRs are more realistic. To consider the cycle successful,  all Key Results have to be achieved.

While the aspirational OKRs aim high. With these high-end goals is organizations and startups can successfully enter the market. As well as start upscaling to gradually take over the market. 

Aspirational OKRs are a lot harder to achieve. To realize these inspirational goals your teams need to be able to think out of the box. 

Aspirational OKR success will depend a lot on how your teams are aligned across all departments. It requires agreement and cultural readiness on the part of executive leaders, teams, and individual employees.

For Aspirational OKR success, your teams have to accept experimenting with new ideas, failing, trying again, and learning from the process. 

Before setting aspirational OKRs, you should consider a few things. Like evaluating your resources, time, and manpower to work on the Objectives. Otherwise, your ambitious OKRs will remain unachievable for the long run.

Click here to read about 14 different goal setting methods

How to decide between committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs?

committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs

Committed OKRs will work best if your organization is newly introduced to the framework or is still in the rolling out phase.

With each goal achieved, your teams’ motivation and engagement will rise higher. In addition, teams easily get into the habit of running Committed OKRs and make it part of their work culture.

But if have already used the framework in the past, aspirational OKRs can do wonders for you.

Creating a result-driven work culture takes time. It demands discipline, continuous effort, and a mindset shift of employees and management. So you should start simple and focus on learning the methodology first. And set up the necessary processes to make it work. 

Setting aspirational OKRs in the very beginning would make your teams feel overwhelmed and over-pressurized. Extremely ambitious Key Results soon become too much to handle.

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Learning a new methodology takes time. Once your teams are used used to the framework and it becomes a part of their work-life, you can consider aspirational OKRs.

Note that- You can either make the whole OKR framework aspirational. Or just keep one aspirational Key Result under an Objective. 

With the later process, you can have objectives and a combination of committed and aspirational key results. While some key results will be easier to achieve and some others will aim higher.

Are aspirational OKRs right for your organization?

To decide if your aspirational OKRs can pass the litmus test or not, consider the following-

If your teams achieve the set objectives and key results even when every single team member is not involved in the process. This implies that you shouldn’t have implemented the aspirational OKRs in the first place. 

Common mistakes to avoid while setting up aspirational OKRs

 Here are 5 common mistakes organizations commit while setting up aspirational OKRs-

1Ignoring organizational structure and needs

A common mistake most organizations commit while writing aspirational OKRs is to write something like, “What can be done more if we have extra resources and luck favors us ?” Instead, you can pretend to be a genie and thrive to understand “What our customer needs at present moment?” 

2Unrealistic aspirational OKRs

Aspirational OKRs don’t imply setting unrealistic goals. It should be achievable, with the understanding that your teams won’t have any clue about how to achieve these OKRs. Aspirational OKRs demands overuse of resources. They are fluid and flexible. But still helps your teams focus on well-defined goals.

3Writing a low-value objective (LVO)

Moving forward with a “Who cares?” attitude is a common pitfall among organizations.  Low-Value Objectives go unnoticed even after successful completion of the key results. 

4OKRs should be framed to gain tangible benefit

OKRs are a tool for organizations to work for big goals in long run by breaking them into small chunks that can be achieved within a shorter cycle.

5A committed OKR must deliver a 1.0

It makes the framework stiff and doesn’t leave scope for improvement.

6Too many OKRs

How many aspirational OKRs you should set for one cycle will depend on your company’s resources. But never aim for too many Objectives and key results. As it can easily divert your focus altogether.

Click here to read about do’s and don’ts of writing OKRs

Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between committed and aspirational OKRs and how they can impact your organization’s success, it’s the decision time. Choose the one that will best suit your purpose.

And don’t forget it’s a trial and error method. Have regular OKR check-ins and reviews. Collect feedback during and after each cycle. And use your learnings to avoid further mistakes in the next OKR cycle.

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