5 mistakes to avoid with OKRs

It can take a few quarters to get OKRs right. Here are some practical tips that many had to learn the hard way.

5 mistakes to avoid with OKRs

It often takes a few quarters to get OKRs right. Hopefully, this post will help you accelerate adoption by avoiding some classic mistakes.

Mistake 1: Focusing on projects rather than impact

Releasing a product, or launching a campaign is only the beginning. You're building features to help your users, and you're posting content for people to read it. This should be reflected in your goals to make sure you have the right mindset.

  • Don't: My objective is to build our MVP
  • Do: My objective is to get 100 users on our product

With the first statement, you'll only care about building features. With the second, you'll have to think about your product, but also figure out how to build an audience and get people to use your MVP — it's a bigger and more meaningful challenge.

Mistake 2: Pick binary goals (done/not done)

A good Key Result should help you understand if you're getting off-track, and push you to try different approaches to get to your goal. Pick metrics where progress can be measured every week.

Ex: When you're hiring, it can take months before finding the right person for the role. However, you can still track the number of applications you're getting, and how qualified and diverse the CVs are. These metrics will help you improve your job description, and figure out if you posted the offer in the right places.

Being able to track progress early and often will help you adjust your strategy rapidly and increase the chances of success.

Mistake 3: People-based rather than team-based plans

People-based OKRs will incentivize people to do what's good for their managers. Team-based OKRs will push people to do what's great for the business.

Set some company goals at the top, then organize your OKRs by team or functions underneath. It's a simple way to create a North Star that belongs to many, instead of goals that seem restricted to specific individuals.

Mistake 4: Too many competing OKRs

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." - Blaise Pascal

It's far easier to add up priorities than to identify which ones need to sit at the top. But a big part of focus is to say no to most things. If you want people to achieve great results, you'll need to make sure that they're not spreading themselves thin across too many initiatives.

Limit the number of OKRs to increase impact in each area. Having 3 Objectives in a quarter is already a lot for most teams.

Mistake 5: Only one person updates progress

Don't put a single person in charge of updating progress on the Key Results every week. It's best to involve multiple stakeholders in the process. This will increase transparency and create a culture where the entire team shares accountability.

The other advantage is that you'll decentralize knowledge. More people will have access to the core KPIs, and your entire org will be able to have meaningful discussions on the desired outcomes.

What's next?

There's much more to talk about! Please add your feedback in the comments - and don't hesitate to join our community if you want to chat about OKRs.

Finally, we also have an OKRs guide for startups that can help you adopt the framework.