‘okr busyness’ and ‘OKR success, what’s the difference?

‘OKR Busyness’ and ‘OKR Success’ what is the difference?

‘OKR Busyness’ and ‘OKR Success’, what is the difference, and why does it matter? Objectives and Key results can only be achieved when our teams are consistently busy with the ‘right things’ that produce results. In the context of OKR performance the terms ‘busyness’, and ‘productivity’ requires a high degree of clarification.


It may be fair to say that many people cannot wait to tell us how busy they are. ‘ I am extremely busy,’ has become a ‘buzz phrase’ to answer the cliché question of ‘How are you?’


  • Are we really busy?
  • Are we busy with priorities or just random tasks to validate that you are busy?
  • Are we focused or busy with activities across a broad spectrum and cannot focus on quality?
  • Are we producing the desired results through being busy?
  • Are we making a habit of busyness or regularly reflecting on what is working and not working – are we adjusting?
  • Are we busy working on a shared vision together or are we active for the sake of being active?

A recent Harvard Business Review article ‘unpacks’ the concept of busyness, how it has become a status symbol, and how it impacts performance.

We would have to be busy with priorities and activities that we have control over or activities that we can influence, to achieve our objectives.


Productivity can be distilled into the concepts of ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ for the purpose of clarification.

Efficiency is ‘doing the right thing’ – It is the right thing to run marketing campaigns.


Effectiveness is ‘doing the right thing, in the right way, so that it produces results’ – Executing the same marketing campaigns based on previously successful campaigns and thorough market research may bring the desired results. Producing the right results is, more often than not an iterative process.

Producing the right results is based on prioritization and alignment – Alignment to the shared vision and prioritization of the most impactful Objectives, metrics, and activities on the Vision of the organization.

Netflix made the clear strategic choice of creating its own original content of high quality over streaming other studios’ content and has aligned its priorities, objectives, and goals to this choice.

OKR achievement

Deploying OKRs and achieving OKRs are different concepts yet, of course, the way you deploy OKRs has a high impact on achieving them. Busyness as it is described in this article, is unlikely to ‘move the needle in achieving OKRs.

Several people and companies are drafting task lists instead of OKRs, yet still call the same task lists OKRs. They are not to blame, but conditioning is. We are conditioned from an early age, generally speaking, to draft task lists and to tick them off as we complete them – this provides a ‘dopamine hit’ , a sense of achievement, and proof that we are, indeed, busy.

If we were to prioritize these same tasks in order of the degree of impact on key metrics (key results) and how they ultimately impact our shared objectives, we have positively enhanced our chances of OKR achievement:

Alignment, check-ins, drafting powerful OKRs, and ‘doing OKRs’ are all success factors of Objective and key results frameworks.

‘Doing OKRs’

What ensures (as far as possible) OKR Success? We can draft perfect OKRs yet in the end it is about what we collectively do as a team that is of the highest importance in achieving OKRs. We need to do what is hard – that is to avoid too much comfort by perpetually doing what we have a habit of doing and instead do what is required to achieve.

Our task lists in support of actualizing key results, therefore, should not represent our favorite activities but instead the most effective projects, tasks, and initiatives (or likely to be the most effective) whether we like it or not.

Immediate action is an additional important factor in achievement and sustainable OKR Success. Even if we start small and build from there we need to take immediate action after we have drafted OKRs. The longer the delay between the drafting process and action culminates into risking non-starting.

We need to be ‘excitedly uncomfortable’ during the deployment of OKRS –

Excited because of the new journey and that we will be achieving far-reaching goals as a team. Uncomfortable as true and sustainable growth only happens outside of our comfort zones.

A combination of strong leadership, diligence, and discipline can ensure the perpetual execution of OKRs. Consistent messaging, support, and coaching from the leadership, discipline in having weekly productive check-ins, and continuous action are more ingredients of ‘OKR Success’.

If we, for example, experience a very inspirational Town hall to ‘kick off’ OKRS, only to be followed up by a ‘command and control’ and negative environment during our check-ins it will be extremely hard for us to achieve.

OKRs are inspirational, future-directed, and action-orientated. We, as teams need to align our behaviors to the character of OKRs, considering and acting on all of the above we can collectively reach ‘dizzying heights’ of success.

Here is the link to our OKR Practitioner course brochure to empower you on your OKR journey and to coach you on how to draft powerful OKRs

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute