5 OKR mistakes to avoid

If you are unfamiliar with OKRs, then it’s very easy to fall into the trap of common mistakes. Here is a short list of common mistakes organizations make when implementing the popular goal-setting framework. 

1. Objectives are not challenging or lack the necessary stretch component

OKRs require a radical shift from the common goal-setting approach. Typically, goals are set with the preconceived idea that  employees should hit 100% of their goal—and if they don’t, well they aren’t doing their job. This is absolutely the wrong mindset when utilizing the OKR framework. 

One of the many benefits of OKRs is the idea of stretch, or moonshot goals—of pushing employees to stretch boundaries, innovate, and set out to tackle ambitious goals. To do this, we use OKRs to create challenging, and rather uncomfortable goals, expecting employees will not reach 100%, but rather, by hitting 70-80%, they have achieved more than they would have otherwise. That said, stretch goals should always be challenging but not impossible to achieve. 

2. Coupling OKRs or goals with employee compensation

This is a big one—and for many companies and HR teams causes quite a bit of confusion. But if we think about it, OKRs are used to push boundaries and enable employees to push limits. We should never see 100% completion on an objective, if we do, then the goal wasn’t ambitious enough. That said, if employee compensation is tied to the completion of goals, employees will be less likely to push the creative boundaries. 

For that reason, it is always best practice to uncouple employee compensation from employees goals. 

3. The set and forget mindset doesn't work with OKRs

OKRs are meant to be flexible and iterative. They are always on-going and require weekly check-in cadences, along with quarterly and annual planning cycles.  This means, the days of setting a goal and forgetting it until the end of the quarter are gone. Instead, OKRs are planned, rolled out, and discussed and measured weekly. Much like the agile sprints development has used for years, OKRs bring the agile method of goal-setting to the rest of the organization. 

4. Having too many Objectives or Key Results

Having too many Objectives or Key Results is another mis-step organization can make. The guiding pricing of OKR is to drive focus, but if you have too many things to focus on, then are you really focused? It’s best practice to have no more than 3-5 Objectives per quarter, with somewhere between 3-5 Key Results per Objective.  By limiting focus to just a handful of Objectives and Key Results, you enable teams and contributors to remain focused and manage their workload. 

5. Key Results are not quantifiable

When using OKRs it’s important to remember that Objectives become big-picture goals, while Key Results become the measurement of whether or not the goal was achieved. Creating a list of inspiring, yet, not measurable Key Results is not a best practice, and should be avoided at all costs.