7 Deadly ☠️ Sins of OKRs 🎯

Sin #1 — Missing the WHY

In order for people to feel motivated to participate, they need to understand WHY you want to implement OKRs and why it’s crucial that they check-in every week.

Sin #2 — Planning initiatives bottom-up

Never. Ever. Plan your OKRs by starting with initiatives.

Sin #3 — Business-as-usual OKRs

You tried so hard but there is still some work that needs to be done no matter what and it just doesn’t fit under any of your objectives. First of all, don’t feel bad about it.

Sin #4— Failing to understand the difference between leading and lagging indicators

I know, the theory is boring but there are a couple of things you and your people want to understand and learn by heart before you start. One of them is what Objectives, Key Results, and Initiatives represent.

  • O — “Create documentation for the new JavaScript SDK” (project-oriented, BAU, doesn’t promote change)
  • KR — “Spend XY man-days writing the docs” (a leading indicator, doesn’t say anything about the actual impact)

Sin #5 — Failing to report progress every week

People can be discouraged if they have no progress to report. This situation should never occur. If it does, you have a problem with immeasurement — one of the three signs of a miserable job.

#5.1 Unrealistic evaluation period

When planning OKRs people tend to think about the initiatives and the volume they will manage fit into a quarter. When setting up a Key Result, you need to ask yourself a question — is it realistic to not only make but also MEASURE a difference within a single quarter?

#5.2 Forgetting about the leading indicators

This also has to do with the KRs being lagging indicators and the aforementioned inertia. Often times, it doesn’t occur to people that they should also be reporting the progress of the leading indicators — the initiatives. This way, people will (almost) always have something to report, see the progress and the direct link between their Initiatives and KRs which will keep their spirit higher.

Sin #6 — Inability to change the course of action

OK, the quarter is over, you graded your OKRs, some of them scored <0.5. What’s next? Should you do something about the Objective, or shall you close it and move to another topic?

Sin #7 — Not trying long and hard enough

It’s been almost two years since we’ve introduced OKRs in our company and I still can’t say that we mastered the methodology to the last bit. We are getting closer every quarter but it takes time, a hell lot of time. Don’t give up!

You still got your those Chinese worry balls, sir?

Final words

I personally like working with OKRs and advocate for their correct usage across several teams in Kentico. I like the framework’s simplicity — it definitely helps promote high-level strategy changes throughout the whole company faster. The people who would usually be reluctant to listen to the “boring” strategy update meetings now have an easy way to get the context they need for making the right decisions. And that’s what matters.

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