10 OKR mistakes to avoid (and how to fix them)

10 OKR Mistakes to avoid (And How to fix them)

We all make honest mistakes in pursuing practical solutions, and strategies should be applauded as they provide the best learning opportunities. Every day is an opportunity presented to leaders to shape an environment wherein it is very good to make mistakes; as long as they are honest and framed as learning opportunities immediately acted upon, they are perfect and precise steps taken toward success.

Read the following insightful Harvard Business Review article on how to transform failure or mistakes into learning experiences:

There are mistakes we should avoid if we want to succeed with OKRs. These mistakes are generally very detrimental to Performance:

1. Not creating psychological safety in your teams

People in survival mode, still figuring out which relationships to build and how to be excellent at their roles, are likely to pursue stretch goals once they experience a sense of psychological safety. As leaders, it is up to us to deliberately create an environment of safety, trust, and inspiration.

Sincere praise and belonging queues such as :

‘You are essential to this team’

‘I have a lot of faith in you

‘ The work you did to gain momentum on this key result was extraordinary’

Should be a staple in your team communication.

2. Not checking in likely means not succeeding

Weekly OKR Check-ins allow you to have your ‘finger on the pulse’ of OKRs and empower you to be proactive in iterating on your key results and actions.  We advise sticking to a weekly cadence of short yet powerful OKR check-ins. Having regular check-ins often results in being re-active and failing to achieve your OKRs.

3. Lack of immersive experiences of OKRs

Poorly trained team members with little to no understanding of OKRs are unlikely to be excited by OKRs and will likely be poor at drafting Powerful OKRs. A critical success factor of OKR roll-outs is to offer immersive experiences (meaning they are already practicing the skills of recruiting OKRs and aligning them within workshops) to all team members involved.

4. Lack of effort to obtain sufficient buy-in

Without a high level of buy-in into the idea and motivating mechanisms of OKRs, OKRs will likely prove unsuccessful and unsustainable within your organization. By creating numerous OKR champions and advocates in your organization and thoroughly ‘selling’ the purpose and benefits of OKRs to all involved, you have taken meaningful strides toward obtaining buy-in. Simply managing resistance to change and showcasing how OKRs align with the compelling Vision and excellent organization strategies are additional measures to ensure optimal buy-in.

5. Lack of a resources assessment

       We need to assess if we have the financial capacity, the necessary human resources capabilities, and the skills required to achieve a specific OKRto achieve your goals. A thorough resource capacity assessment while drafting OKRs is an essential best practice.

6. Reverting to command control when anything goes wrong

OKRs is a ‘muscle’ that you build over time, and it takes between two and five OKR cycles for teams to achieve excellence at OKRs. In some cases, top management becomes impatient very quickly if they see no immediate positive results from OKRs and then revert to their default of ‘command and control.’

7. A void when it comes to purpose

People generally want a career path, a community, and a cause (purpose) for them to be truly engaged at work. When people experience a lack of meaning and impact in their work, they are unlikely to pursue stretch goals. Providing people with an operationalized purpose is another essential success factor, not only when it comes to OKRs but also about Organizational development as a whole

8. Being output focused

We see many output-focused objective statements such as, ‘Create a new feature,’ ‘Build a new website,’ and more. Therefore, these statements do not make the value-added nor the impact desired from those activities and are not inspirational. We are 30% more likely to achieve goals that are more Outcome-focused as they are more inspirational and transparent in terms of benefits and value-added.

9. Having no strategy or a vague strategy

Strategy is points of differentiation from the competition that are valuable and meaningful to all stakeholders and differences that we can preserve. Strategy is not a list of goals, nor is it using specific tools such as Agile methodologies. Anyone can apply it. Therefore, it needs to establish clear and meaningful differences from the competition. If our strategy needs to be clarified, how do we successfully align our goals with it? We can make our strategies more straightforward by co-creating them and presenting them as choices. For example, Netflix strategically chose to create original content over only streaming others’ content.

10. Just following and not creating your own OKR playbook

Every organization is unique and has its own life cycle, culture, and challenges. Following others’ ways of introducing OKRs in your organization is a mistake. Yes, it is good to follow OKR’s best practices to at least have a ‘flexible framework’ as you roll out OKRs, but eventually, you need to end up with a playbook that reflects your unique organization.

Learn a practical approach to avoiding general OKR mistakes by journeying through our suite of courses:

OKR Courses

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute