Why do some resist the implementation of OKRs?(and what to do about resistance to change)

   Why do some resist the implementation of OKRs?(And what to do about resistance to change)

    You are inspired. You have set exciting ‘stretch objectives’ and supporting key results for the last quarter of the year, only to find that a large portion of your team is showing signs of resisting the implementation process. 

Your energy is systematically drained as you fail at overcoming the strong and fortified barrier of resistance to change, time and again.

Here comes the ‘saviour of the day’

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic

Peter Drucker

‘Its natural’ smiles the change leadership consultant after the whole scenario and side effects of resistance to change was explained to him. 

”Human beings are creatures of comfort and change is the oposite, it tends to be very uncomfortable’, he elaborated. Simply telling your team to change their behaviour is unlikely to have any effect. 

Mr. Consultant saw the frustration on your face culminating into a huge and serious frown and he realised it was about time to give you a way out:

Stakeholder engagement and resistance to change

He turned his smile into a serious gaze: ‘ Engage all stakeholders to the implementation of OKRs with both empathy and excitement. Use empathy as change is hard at the same time approach them with excitement and clearly explain the impact to society , the personal impact to them as well as the imapct to the company when the OKRs are materialized.

They need to make sense of OKRs and realise the alignment to the company Vision and be excited about the positive impact.

You already know who the most loud supporters are of the implementation of OKRs. Make them your change champions and coach them to change the lunch conversations with others around OKRs to the positive. Ensure that they support this initiative publicly.

Immediately, as far as is possible, identify those who resist and start with individual coaching cycles. This coaching has to be conducted within an environment of empathy and collaboration. Stand firm on the Vision , values and objectives of the company. 

Celebrate the small wins as you start executing on tasks that are aligned to the Key results and objectives and transform failures into learning experiences. 

Have weekly check-ins and ensure that the environment around these meetings are positive,caring and foster collaboration.

General forms of resistance to change

Passive resistance – Non-vocal resistance. Resistance is offered in the form of non-action.

Active resistance – Publicly vocal against the implementation of initiatives. Can also be strikes and demonstrations.

Violent resistance – Aggressive resistance. This could be verbal and/or physical violence

Refrain from labelling every occurrence of non-action as laziness. It may just be a demonstration of passive resistance. As a leader, you need to allow people to speak up. at the same time you are the custodian of the culture of the company as a leader, therefore when complaints are raised, immediately ask the team for positive solutions.

Common reasons for resistance to the Implementation of OKRs

Other than the fear of ‘what is new and uncomfortable’, team members may resist the implementation of OKRs when they feel that :

* They had no input in the setting of the Objectives and Key Results

* They had no opportunity to raise any concerns

* They were not well informed and do not understand the purpose of introducing Objectives and key results

* there was no opportunity to collaborate and they were just told what tasks to perform

* they were not well trained on the implementation of OKRs

* it is just another ‘fad’ and that this ‘too shall pass’

Read the following informative article on how participation and other methods can combat resistance to change in general:


Foster inspiration, creativity and collaboration throughout  all OKR cycles

Inform and train your teams well on the implementation and sustainable practices of Objectives and Key results cycles. Formulate questions that foster collaboration during check ins and carefully listen to feedback.

Inspire the team through consistent reminders of the impact of their work and celebrate team wins and individual improvements publicly. Ensure that performance is well and fairly rewarded and that non-performance is coached with a balanced approach of empathy and firmness.

All of the above combined allows you to effectively combat resistance to the implementation of OKRS as a Leader.

Join our comprehensive and practical courses to learn about all the elements of setting OKRs and leading sustainable performance initiatives: https://okrinstitute.org/course-calendar/

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute