How OKRs can fill mindset and other challenging gaps

“Fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving.”

Caroline S. Dweck

OKRs will not fill every gap in the organization nor will they solve all your problems yet they can most certainly have an immense positive impact on specific challenges and gaps when effectively deployed:

Mindset Gaps

The mindset with which strategies are created at the company’s highest level often differs from those who have to execute the same techniques. When those tasked with strategy execution question strategies, this is often viewed as resistance to change. This is one of several reasons why most companies must execute their strategy more effectively.

As the OKR framework is an agile goals-setting methodology, we can fill the ‘strategy and execution gap’ and set strategies ‘the agile way.’ By co-creating strategies and including team members’ voices, we can bring more transparency and understanding to the strategy and simplify it.

The most productive mindset orientation to actualize OKRs is a growth mindset. When team members suffer from a fixed mindset orientation, it becomes even more challenging to achieve OKRs. A fixed mindset orientation makes you concerned about how you will be judged and makes you believe that the limits to your potential and performance that you have set in your mind are real and concrete boundaries.

As the saying goes, ‘Do not get bitter, get better.’ A growth mindset makes you think that failures are learning opportunities to be transformed into positive growth. When you have a fixed mindset orientation, you are more likely to see only problems and not come up with solutions.

A growth mindset orientation does not include ignorance of problems but instead shifts the focus to solution-driven thinking and a collaborative approach to problem-solving. By being insatiably curious and bringing that curiosity (how can we achieve goals jointly, how can we best do this?) to OKR meetings, we can jointly achieve great things.

THE strategy and Execution Gap

By its very nature OKR frameworks are ideally suited to filling the strategy and execution gap, because:

  1. Objectives are aligned to the strategy/strategies of the company when effectively drafted.
  2. The action plan designed to actualize the key results within an OKR framework places the focus on execution.
  3. When multiple strategic and team-level OKRs align with the company’s strategy/strategies, all involved move coherently towards actualizing the vision and strategy.

The ‘Tyranny of the Tangible’ Gap

What is customary, tangible and tradition tend to make us comfortable The longer the habit of staying within the ‘self-inflicted boundaries’ of your comfort zone is maintained the harder it becomes to pursue ‘stretch goals’.

Often, when the results of an OKR implementation are viewed as poor by top management, their knee-jerk reaction can be to revert to what is tangible and a ‘command-control environment. That is why it is critical to do thorough research, create a strategic roll-out plan, and ensure a complete OKR education in your organization. It is also essential how you communicate around OKRs:

  1. Is it clear to all in the organization why we are doing an OKR roll-out?
  2. Is it clear to all what success looks like?
  3. Is it clear what my and my team’s expectations are?

By ensuring that all the elements of a successful OKR implementation are thoroughly focused on we can fill the ‘tyranny of the tangible gap’ through OKRs

Skills Gaps

In comparing our current status to the desired future goal (OKR), it may be revealed that some skills gaps need to be addressed for us to actualize the OKR that we have set as a team.

After drafting an OKRor OKR, we can closely work with our HR team to assess skill gaps. Based on those identified skill gaps, we can offer targeted and immersive learning experiences to fill those skill gaps or hire people with the required skills. This would depend on what the situation demands.

‘Your OKRs are only as good as your skills’ – We can draft outcome-focused OKRs aligned with the company’s strategy and vision, but if we ignore the potential skills gaps that stand between us as a team and OKR achievement, we are likely to to struggle to gain forward momentum on our OKRs.

Strong leadership is required to fill all of the above gaps. It is a skill in itself to identify and overcome these gaps. Identifying skill gaps and overcoming them can be simplified through collaborative efforts and by making the OKR setting process very transparent.

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute