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Please note, Demystifying OKRs has been divided over 5 parts, & you are currently on one of the elemental parts (Part 2 of 5). Across these 5 elements, we demystify Objectives – Key results, from theory (Part 1), it’s application (Part 2), the best practices (Part 3), to it’s deployment (Part 4) & the common mistakes (Part 5). Also see, The Brew’s success stories in aligning human capital to business strategy here.
How your company handles OKR will be unique to you. And the more you add them and work with them, the better you’ll be at aligning your teams and measuring results. However, early on in your path to adopting, there are some common pitfalls you should watch out for:
Miscommunicating “Stretch Goals”
At Google, OKRs are used to go after stretch goals. Or, goals they don’t necessarily think they can hit. And while this is a fantastic way to motivate your team to look for unique and innovative solutions, if not communicated properly it can cause some serious headaches.
Once Objectives – Key Results have been adopted across multiple teams, you’ll need to be very aware of the other team’s goal-setting philosophy. If part of your project depends on another team’s Objectives, make sure you know whether they’re most likely to deliver you something at 95% or 65% of their stated objectives & key results.
If your current goal-setting philosophy is to be conservative with what you’re going after, this isn’t going to jive with OKRs. To test this, look at your team’s current work as well as requested projects and rank them in terms of value versus effort required. If the OKRs you’ve chosen have anything other than top effort tasks you should drop them and re-assign the resources.
Of course, there are some Objectives that will stay the same each cycle (especially around maintenance or upkeep). This is ok as long as the Objective is high priority and brings in business value. But always try to make sure your Key Results push the team to evolve and look for new ways to be more efficient.
If a team is consistently hitting their OKRs without using all their bandwidth, they may be hoarding resources or not pushing their team (or both). This can kill the morale of other teams who are going after stretch goals. Make sure you have a consistent, company wide philosophy around how difficult Objectives should be and what success looks like.
Not enough Key Results for an Objective (i.e. a lack of clarity)
We can’t say enough how the OKR secret sauce comes down to measurement. And if the Key Results for an Objective don’t represent everything that’s needed to fully achieve it, you’re not setting your team up for success. Take the time during the planning phase to determine exactly what that objective needs to be successful.
The way you set goals says a lot about your company. Are you concerned with just getting through the day? Or are you looking 10 years down the road? With OKRs you can do both. OKRs not only help you communicate the big vision stuff that builds behemoths like Google and Twitter. They also make sure every person doing their daily work and putting out fires is in alignment.
But they take work. As John Doerr wrote in Wired: “OKRs are not a silver bullet. They cannot substitute for sound judgment, strong leadership, or a creative workplace culture. But if those fundamentals are in place, OKRs can guide you to the mountaintop.”
It doesn’t matter how quickly your company grows if it’s going in the wrong direction. But if you do the work upfront to dial in your strategy and vision, OKRs can be the super fuel you need to blow past your goals.
Stay with The Brew on Demystifying OKRs for the rest of the parts. Divided over 5 parts, we demystify OKRs, from theory, its application, to it’s deployment, the best practices & the common mistakes.