OKRS: Hope is not a Strategy

Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.

James Cameron

OKRs may reflect the hopes and dreams of an organization, yet if those dreams and hopes are not underpinned by sound strategy and execution capacity, they are likely to remain as dreams. Having hope can be a very good feeling, but that does not necessarily translate to any positive results.

Napoleon famously said: ‘Leaders are dealers in hope,’ but if hope is not underpinned by strategy, a strong knowledge, and skills base, it could be meaningless.

One of the key roles that the OKR Institute plays is to gather best practices from across the globe and to share what works and what does not – In our experience, drafting OKRs as wish lists and hopes and dreams is not adequate; instead, we should include in an OKR framework only that which is either within our control or at least within our sphere of influence.

In a state of panic, some abandon reason and implement OKRs while ignoring their limited capacity and several other complexities the organization faces. Hoping that OKRs will solve most or all of their problems, some organizations do not think more carefully and immediately start with implementations.

What can we do then to ensure that we not only hope for success but also underpin our dreams with practical and effective measures that send us in the right direction?

Create consistency in drafting OKRs

This is another reminder that hope is not a strategy; it can be a potentially disastrous approach to go ahead and tell teams to draft their OKRs within the context of having minimal OKR experience or training – Most teams are then very likely to draw output-focused OKRs (basically task lists), which then would defeat the purpose of introducing OKRs. Worse than that, some teams might draft OKRs that are easy to attain and avoid risk, while other teams might prepare far-reaching goals –

These indescrepencies can then create chaos and conflicts when these teams try to work together. Consistency in drafting OKRs can be created by:

  1. Ensuring a through OKR education
  2. Collectively deciding upfront what our approach to drafting OKRs will be .
  3. Consistency and excellence in drafting workshop facilitation.

OKR Frameworks are not ‘Silver Bullets’

OKRs cannot magically resolve all your problems. If you as a company have endured a long history of poor performance and are struggling in terms of resources, you should not consider deploying OKRs immediately; instead, it is best to first pursue a series of small wins and create forward momentum before introducing OKRs.

We should be mindful of how we shape the organizational culture as we deploy OKRs and ensure our OKRs align with our culture. OKRs cannot replace ‘pillars of success’ such as a values-based culture and inspirational and effective Leadership – OKRs are best deployed within the context of transformational and servant leadership.

Some of the keys to succesful transformations are:

  1. Creating a compelling and inspirational change Vision
  2. Obtaining stakeholder buy-in
  3. Breaking down resistance to change

These three elements of change Leadership are highly relevant to OKRs. In the lack of a compelling and transparent vision, in the absence of buy-in, and within solid resistance, OKRs are unlikely to thrive. Therefore, it is an excellent opportunity to put effort into creating or clarifying a compelling vision, obtaining buy-in, and breaking down resistance to change as preparation for a successful OKR roll-out.

Another opportunity that an OKR implementation presents is to co-create effective strategies and align OKRs.


Hope is not a strategy. OKRs can be a very effective in helping you actualize the company vision. There are, however, several factors to consider when implementing OKRs. Simply hoping that an OKR implementation will be successful is wishful thinking. Instead, we can focus on the critical success factors of an OKR implementation. Hope is, therefore, not a Strategy.

Focusing on a strategic OKR roll-out plan, providing a thorough OKR education, and capturing all learnings gained during our deployment of OKRs are examples of things you can do to ensure that your OKR success is not purely based on hope.

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute