OKR FAQ from practitioners – Insights into Workpath’s OKR Guide

OKRs

To learn from other‘s experiences, mistakes and questions is always a great opportunity to not make the same mistake twice and to increase the chances of success. This is why we gathered the most frequently asked questions revolving around OKRs together with respective answers from our customers, community and other OKR practitioners and experts. We hope, they will provide you with more clarity, solve some of your problems and help you to overcome some of your challenges.

This OKR FAQ list is an excerpt of our Complete OKR Guide. If you are interested in learning more about OKRs, their history, definition and helpful examples, download our Complete OKR Guide here.

1. Getting started

Are OKRs meant only for companies of specific size, large or small?

The quick answer is no. OKRs can be implemented in a company of any size. The core principles of the methodology (Objectives with measurable Key Results) can be scaled for one person or for huge enterprises of several thousand and ten thousands of employees. 

What’s the easiest way to get started with OKRs?

The easiest way to get started with OKRs is to start using them. There are a lot of resources you can read and watch before. You can find some of them in our Content Hub or in the Workpath magazine. There are also really good workshops that prepare you to start with OKRs. But to understand how they work, they need to be tested on your team.

An easy way to do so is to start with a spreadsheet (find a free template here). To work well, they must be used constantly though and the progress must be improved every quarter. In four to six quarters, you should have a clear idea on how they work. Then you’re all set – but remember: there will always be more to improve.

What are the benefits of OKRs for leadership?

For leadership and managers, the benefits are: 

  • Improve strategy execution through connecting strategic and operative work successfully
  • Increasing workforce productivity through experienced purpose
  • Increased clarity, focus and better prioritization of strategic priorities
  • Better alignment across teams as well as top down and bottom-up
  • Transform every employee into a strategy executor
  • Making better more informed decisions based on leading data
  • Know when and how to course-correct on the go

Who should be in charge of our OKR program?

For a properly executed introduction of the OKR method and processes into your company, it is essential that leadership supports the process from scratch on. A dedicated program lead is then responsible for rolling out the process together with a team of OKR Coaches and further support of C-Level. 

2. During the Cycle

What can help us to prioritize OKRs?

You can use frameworks like the Eisenhower Matrix for example:

You list all your goals in one or another of the boxes. As you list them in the box, do so by priority. When finished, address the “Urgent”/“Important” Goals immediately and dismiss the “Not Urgent”/“Not Important” tasks.

With regards to prioritizing, which OKRs should be done for the next quarter, we recommend to have a thorough discussion within your team on your priorities and how they link to overarching, company-level priorities. It is also helpful to remind yourself that you are creating value for your customer, so it helps to ask yourself, what is (s)he longing for right now.

How can we track our OKRs?

How you track your OKRs depends on the size and status of your company. In most companies with less than 100 people it is the easiest way to track the progress and confidence level of your OKRs in a spreadsheet file. With more than 100 people you should think about using an internal tool or a dedicated software to track your results and get support by respective analytics tools.

How often shall we track our OKRs?

It is very important to track your OKRs on a regular basis. Most teams do so weekly in their Check-ins. There they have a look at the OKR progress as well as at the corresponding confidence levels. 

In what rhythm should OKRs be set?

The length of the recurring Goal setting cycle can range from one month to one year, depending on the company. We consider three months to be a reasonable period, as a quarter offers enough time to realize projects and at the same time enough flexibility to assess on the basis of the results whether a direction should be maintained or changed.

How many OKRs should a team have?

There is no strict rule, but from our experience, having too many OKRs often means that you will not be able to focus on any of your goals or that some tasks are not done at all.

A quick example:

Os | KRs per O | Total KRs

3 | 3 | 9

4 | 4 | 16

5 | 5 | 25

Most of the time, it’s a lot better to prioritize your goals before setting OKRs and focus on 9 things rather than try to focus on 25.

3. Beyond the basics

What are linked or aligned OKRs?

To get the best results OKRs should be aligned to one another. So you help each part of your company to know what’s going on and how each part contributes to the whole. This alignment can be vertical (between levels) or horizontal (between teams). Our belief is that in order to get all the employees in your company working as one, all teams should share an aligned network of Objectives and Key Results. 

What is the difference between a retrospective and a review?

Reviews are team meetings at the end of the cycle, where the content of OKRs as well as hypotheses about success drivers, the goal achievement and how the goals are graded, are discussed. 

Retrospectives are there to “sharpen the saw” and to enhance the OKR process. They are carried out in form of team meetings where the OKR process, including timelines, meeting rhythms, Check-ins and other rules are discussed. Retros are an opportunity to adapt the OKR framework for the organization.Try to optimize the framing rules, communication formats and rhythms. We recommend to separate retrospective and review to be even more effective.

How do OKRs work with remote teams?

Our customers’ experience shows that OKRs can work with remote teams as well as with teams that see each other in the office. They can even be a valuable way to lead a remote team. OKRs support communication and transparency within the team by giving members a good overview of how they are working towards shared goals. Through regular consultation and documentation of progress, everyone is always up to date and can act more autonomously.

Would you recommend setting personal/individual OKRs?

In general, we recommend to focus on setting goals on team and company level. This supports collaboration in the teams as well as transparency and alignment instead of everyone just working for themselves. 

If people nevertheless want to add personal goals, it is important that they do not contradict team or company OKRs. 

4. OKRs & other

What are stretch goals and should we use them?

Stretch goals are very ambitious goals that seem highly unlikely to be fully achieved. They should force teams and individuals to rethink how they work and take you out of your comfort zone. They should make everyone involved wonder, how far you can go. 

From our perspective it has to do a lot with the working and organizational culture, if stretch goals are a sensible instrument for the respective firm. This is why stretch goals are e.g. way more often found in US firms than German ones. We recommend to not straight away start with stretch goals when you only started to use OKRs or at least to clearly mark and communicate them as such to manage expectations accordingly.

Should OKRs be part of employee bonus and salary schemes?

In general we do not recommend it. OKRs should not be directly tied to employee bonuses and salary schemes to make sure employees are still willing to take risks and work ambitiously on their OKRs. Further, OKRs should rather strengthen teams and reduce situations where they work in competition – for this goals bonuses are often counterproductive.

What’s the difference between OKRs and KPIs?

KPIs and Key Results look very similar at the first sight but there are some differences that are important to understand for a well-working goal management. 

OKRs define manipulatable success drivers of a goal while KPIs rather verify a result. This makes clear that OKRs and KPIs are not identical and furthermore not mutually exclusive. For comprehensive goal management you should use both concepts in a coordinated manner. Learn more about OKRs and KPIs in our magazine article.

What’s the difference between OKRs and MBO?

At first glance, the two approaches are very similar. Both frameworks structure the work based on goals and start at all levels of the company. Nevertheless, OKRs differ considerably from MBOs. While MBO goals are formulated quantitatively and often as KPIs, OKRs consist of qualitative Objectives that are broken down into quantitative metrics through Key Results. By structuring the goal in detail and setting qualitative Objectives, OKRs emphasize the process of goal achievement, whereas for MBOs the focus is on results. This fundamental difference between MBOs and OKRs goes far beyond the pure goal-setting technique and affects all levels of a company. 

What’s the difference between OKRs and SMART goals?

SMART Goals and OKRs are not simply two concepts that exist side by side. Rather, the quality of OKRs depends heavily on whether the SMART goal rule has been observed in their definition. The proven tool of SMART goals therefore retains its validity even in times of modern goal setting. However, it should be noted that SMART should rather be used as a control tool and filter and is no guarantee for effective Objectives and Key Results. 

What’s the difference between OKRs and Balanced Scorecards?

Both frameworks, OKRs and Balanced Scorecard, are concerned with goal setting and performance management. 

While Balanced Scorecards help to choose the right goals through the establishment of a performance measurement system that does not go beyond mere profit focus (lag measure), OKRs are dedicated with the process of goal achievement (lead measures). Due to their similar philosophy and the complementation of lead and lag measures, OKRs and Balanced Scorecards work together perfectly in the day-to-day business. If you are interested in reading more about the topic, see our article about an overview about the frameworks.

Do you want to learn more about OKRs? Explore helpful checklists, OKR examples and much more in our Complete OKR Guide.

OKR Ressources

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