You imagine teams with objectives contrary to the strategic objectives of their own organization. Unfortunately, I have encountered this situation on several occasions, and sometimes the teams do not know what the objectives of the organization are. Can you actually imagine this situation? It seems unrealistic, but at the same time it happens. Let’s start first by explaining what an OKR is and then I’ll tell you what problems I detected and how the OKRs were able to help mitigate this situation.

What is an OKR?

OKR is the acronym for objective and key results. Objective refers to where we want to go, and the key results is the element that helps us to identify if we are reaching this objective or not.

The OKRs were used by Intel many years ago and were brought to fame thanks to Google. Google usually sets quarterly goals and tries to accommodate the following:

  • That the objective is ambitious
  • The objective must be clear and precise
  • That the objective is attainable to some extent
  • Identify the purpose behind this objective
  • How it relates to the objectives of the organization

Once a goal is set, it is time to find out how we will know that we are reaching that goal or not. For this it is important that we set metrics (key results) for this purpose. Therefore, we have to consider the following elements:

  • The metric is not the objective, it is not a desire. Many people take the metric as an objective, and this is a very serious error because we lose sight of the purpose. 
  • The metric must be to measurable, Google uses the range from 0 to 10 with a desired range between 60% and 70%.

Possible problems when implementing OKRs

Every time I tried using the OKRs I have encountered several barriers:

  • The organization needs to somehow set targets to employees as a way to distribute the annual bonuses.
  • Employees stop being ambitious and set vague goals.
  • Many of the employees started misrepresenting information because they would otherwise lose their annual bonus or a large part of it.
  • Set goals that are not related to the organization’s goals. 
  • The objectives were set by the senior managers of the organisation and often did not motivate people, but simply generated stress and tension.
  • People were asked to set goals but nobody knew what an okr meant. 
  • Employees didn’t know how to set metrics, and sometimes metrics were objectives. 
  • In a great majority the purpose of what we do this was lost.
  • There was no inspection and adaptation of the okrs.
  • The okrs are not transparent to the rest of the people.

Conclusion

OKRs can help organizations to align teams in an organization, help them in the development of people’s competencies, motivate individuals, as well as boost self-organization. But this is not an easy task, it implies a cultural and structural change of the organization. In addition to looking for other approaches to how we can reward people for their behaviors and not for the results, in addition to avoiding using okrs to measure people’s performance.