Management Tips: 6 Pitfalls When Managing Your OKRs

Annalena Simonis, Tuesday 05 October 2021 | Reading time: 4 min.

Objective and Key Results (OKR) are a popular method for agile goal management. However, problems can often arise when implementing new methods. Here are 6 typical mistakes that people often make when implementing the OKR method.

Objective and Key Results (OKR) are a widely used agile planning and management method in which sub-goals of individual employees and teams are aligned with the holistic corporate strategy at regular intervals. The OKR method aims to achieve cross-departmental alignment with long-term corporate strategic goals. As far as possible, measurable sub-goals (key results) are formulated for each department or employee, which are to be achieved by a specific date. In this way, the company obtains absolute transparency as well as the possibility to measure entrepreneurial progress. With OKRs, your company remains focused and efficient even in uncertain times. Both the concept and the implementation are simple, but still hold some pitfalls. Before implementation, it is worth getting to know the following "don'ts" of the OKR method so that you can avoid typical mistakes from the outset.

 

1. Don’t: Set unattainable goals

Although OKRs should be ambitious, goals that are set too high tend to have the opposite effect. Unachievable goals have a demotivating and frustrating effect on your employees. As a result, they can develop a defensive attitude and productivity drops. As is so often true, the motto "the journey is the destination" applies here as well. Set realistic goals to achieve continuous and steady progress in the organization.

 

2. Don’t: Missing assignment of resources

As soon as individual key results are defined, they should be immediately forwarded to the responsible person. From now on, this employee is responsible for achieving this key result. If no one is assigned to a key result, nobody will feel responsible for it and tackle the corresponding tasks. When formulating your OKRs, also make sure from the outset that you include enough employees to meet your key results. In the best case, each team and each employee independently defines their own intermediate goals in order to work towards the formulated goals in their area of responsibility.

 

3. Don’t: Top-down approach in formulating the OKRs

Most employees are in much closer contact with customers than managers and therefore often have a better sense of what the customer needs. Therefore, all affected employees should be involved in the formulation of the OKRs in order to set targets not only top-down but also bottom-up. Involving employees in goal formulation also helps to motivate and retain employees.

 

4. Don’t: Confuse OKRs with tasks

OKRs are often still confused with everyday to-do lists. However, OKRs do not reflect the effort that must be expended to achieve the company's goals, but rather measure the results of the effort. How exactly the goal is achieved doesn’t matter for the formulation. Only the results count here!

 

5. Don’t: Non-measurable key results

Key Results define how you will achieve your Objectives. You always need to specify and define Key Results with measurable figures and metrics. When formulating them, make sure that they describe what is to be achieved as objectively and clearly as possible. Use the SMART method as a guide. Both the individual achievement of objectives and the progress of the whole company can always be calculated and presented in metrics. Only what is measurable can be improved in the long term.

 

6. Don’t: Having too many goals

Don't set too many business goals! To establish a desired direction for your business, never set more than three objectives at once. You must be able to recall your long-term goals from memory at any time. If you are just becoming familiar with the method, you should initially formulate only one OKR. Don't switch strategies too often or you won't get anywhere.

 


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