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Reasons Your OKR System Is Broken And How to Fix It

Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, as we commonly call them, are a goal-setting framework. This framework helps companies drive focus on strategic priorities. It helps drive everyone in the same direction while working individually. 

OKRs create a transparent goal management system while aligning the departments, teams, and individuals toward achieving the core business goals. The objectives in OKRs define the goal the employees want to achieve, and the key results define how to achieve the goal. It is a time-bound framework where every objective should be challenging but achievable. Another aspect of OKR is continuous tracking, reviewing, and re-evaluating. This makes it highly effective. 

Even though OKR is not a freshly out-of-the-oven concept, it gained popularity among companies just a few years ago. When Andy Groves used it to capture the market share for Intel using OKRs, he paved the way for other companies to use it for their success. Today, it is one of the most committed approaches adopted by companies like Google and Amazon to stay ahead. 

It has never been this important for companies to align their employees with company goals, create a structure and execute an impeccable strategy. With remote work culture, cut-throat competition, and volatile market conditions, strategy execution becomes paramount. Achieving goals is more than just a one-person job. It requires everyone from top to bottom to work together and deliver results. OKRs help create a clear course of action for everyone to follow. 

Now, this might come to you as a surprise that nearly 70% of companies fail to implement OKRs successfully the first time. Even though it aims to bridge the gap between company strategy and execution, it requires attention to detail. In this blog, we will handhold you through the reasons why your OKR System is not working and how you can fix it. 

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How is an OKR system beneficial for an Enterprise in 2023?

Before we jump into learning the problems. Let’s understand what OKRs bring to the table for enterprises like you. 

According to Gail Mathews research, 90% of individuals performed better when their goals were relevant and challenging, according to a study conducted on participants. OKRs help you define relevant, challenging, and yet achievable goals. When you implement OKRs, you provide direction for the entire company. It also brings the following benefits for an enterprise. 

  • It encourages team collaboration and you achieve the best outcomes when everyone on the team works together, collaborates, and communicates efficiently. 
  • OKRs, you can bring cross-functional efficiency where the team understands their interdependencies and aims to achieve their targets. 
  • It brings clarity for everyone to understand strategic priorities and high-value tasks providing a unified direction on how and why of the set goals.
  • It is a core requirement for the KRs to be measurable in OKR which help in tracking the progress. Your team’s progress can be clearly measured if your targets are quantifiable. 
  • It ensures periodic evaluation of goals. This helps in analyzing the reasons for failure, if any, and taking corrective action immediately. 
  • It boosts data-backed decision-making processes strengthening your strategic planning. 

Reasons Why Your OKR System is Broken

Everything comes with challenges, and so do OKRs. Although the OKR framework helps achieve moonshot goals, you are not immune to problems. If you need help with your OKR strategy, take a step back to assess the reasons and why they are failing. Here are the top four reasons your OKR is not producing the desired outcomes. 

Creating too complicated OKRs 

As humans, we tend to get carried away. Especially when we are setting goals for our business. We overestimate our capabilities, become unrealistically ambitious, and create too many OKRs. We often need to create more OKRs, only to add to the confusion. The best kind of OKRs is the ones that are clear, precise, achievable, and measurable. When you create complicated OKRs, you set yourself up for failure and ultimately get demotivated to use OKRs at all. 

Solution: 

  • The ideal number of objectives is 3-5, with a maximum of 5 key results for each objective. Stick to this number. This will reduce the confusion caused by too many goals.  
  • State clearly what you want to achieve in your OKRs. Put numbers to quantify OKRs. This will not only give a clear indication of the target but also help you track progress. 

For example 

        Objective: Improving customer satisfaction by achieving NPS 70

        Key Results: Ensure obtaining 100% feedback from customers

        Key Results: Source 2 features opportunities from the feedback 

        Key Results: Reduce the number of negative customer feedbacks from 20 to 10 

  • Set objectives that are achievable 70% on a regular basis. Over-ambitious goals might sound exciting, but if you set goals that are highly unachievable and far from reality, you set yourself up for failure in the beginning only. Set OKRs based on your team’s potential and available resources to get the best outcomes. Also, don’t set goals that are too easy out of fear of failure. When setting goals, ensure that they are challenging enough to pump up your team’s enthusiasm. For example, Google sets moonshot goals and strives to achieve 70% of the target which is an ideal benchmark for less high stakes and high performance. 

Not tracking the OKRs regularly 

Creating the right OKRs is the first step. If you want your OKR strategy to bring Google-like results, you have to track it regularly. Whenever you set goals, it is likely to get lost in the process. So, when you track OKRs, you get data on what is working and what is not, why you missed achieving certain OKRs, etc. 

It also helps you identify hurdles, take corrective actions and see the measurable progress. Tracking means asking about the progress of the tasks. It also includes check-ins to see how motivated the team is and encourage them to stay focused. 

Solution:

  • Ensure that your OKRs are trackable. While your objective may not contain any quantifiable number, your key results must be quantifiable. This will ensure that you can track what you achieved at the end of the OKR cycle.
  • Review regularly. If required, set short weekly review meetings with your team. These review meetings will allow you to manage any blocks your team might be experiencing and will set accountability among your team. 
  • Have your progress report in front of you. While the best way is to use an OKR tool to get a complete overview of the progress report, you can choose to do it anyhow you like. 

Team members are not aware of their goals 

OKRs create transparency for everyone to understand the big goals and priorities. If your team members are unaware of what the company wants to achieve, they cannot set OKRs for themselves and the rest of the team. 

For OKR to be successful, every key result must have a specific owner. Otherwise, everyone will think someone else is responsible for the job. Clarity of goals also ensures that your employees create and execute a plan for that goal. It ensures they know how they can contribute and what skills they need. 

Solutions: 

  • Always set goals bi-directional instead of just top to down. While the company OKRs are set by the management, involving your team and employees will help you set realistic, relevant goals. It will also ensure that your team members feel important and a part of the bigger plan.
  • Assign goals to individuals and let them know they are responsible for turning that OKR into reality. 
  • Use a tool to create a shared dashboard that everyone can see and has the option to find individual OKRs lists. This will ensure that the goals are visible to everyone, and they can see the progress. 

Replicating another brand’s OKR process and not creating your own

What worked for one company might not work for you. OKRs success depends on many factors like company culture, company structure like agile or waterfall, collaboration environment in the company, etc. You might fail if you try to implement another company’s OKR into yours. OKRs are set based on the team capabilities, resources available, number of employees, etc. You must customize the OKRs based on your company and not replicate them entirely. 

Solutions: 

  • It is good to take inspiration from other companies but remember that something other than what worked with them might work better for you. Customize the OKRs, understand what’s relevant for your company, and make changes according to your goals. 
  • Consider the chances of failure if you implement OKR for the first time by replicating another company’s OKR. Start with a pilot project to test your OKR capabilities. This will allow you to assess how it works before you set OKR for the entire organization.
  • When customizing OKRs, take inputs from the teams involved. Take suggestions and assign them responsibilities to set OKRs. Take feedback on the existing OKR system and what can be improved.

OKR in Product management

Final words 

Implementing OKRs can feel intimidating if you are new to them. But if you spend some time understanding it, you can achieve good results. Start small, and don’t hesitate if you fail the first time. OKRs are exceptional when it comes to setting clarity and transparency. It makes your strategy execution easier. To make the implementation easy for yourself and your employees, you can take help from an enterprise OKR tool like Peoplebox. 

Peoplebox is a robust tool that makes OKR implementation and strategy execution easy for you. To experience how Peoplebox lets you set OKRs, book a demo today!

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