How to improve the OKR method when nothing works

3 min


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OKRs (goals and key results) Is a powerful system that drives people, teams and organizations. But to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, you need to use the map correctly. If you feel like you are lost, no big deal! It can take up to a year to get comfortable with OKRs, and disorientation is part of the journey.

Every traveler has a story about how he got lost. Even Phileas Fogg lost his way when he tried to complete his OKR – a trip around the world in 80 days.

Therefore, if you feel that your the OKR cycle lack of focus, take a step back and try to pinpoint the problem. You need to be honest about your OKR implementation. It can even be helpful when your team helps you pinpoint potential improvements.

OKR Improvement Checklist

The Seven Rules of OKR Hygiene from Andy Grove are a great way to tweak your OKR:

  1. Less is Better: More than one guru has said this, and this is true of OKRs. The organization should have no more than 7 well-founded goals, and all of them should stick to one line… Each goal should have no more than 5 Key Results.

  2. Rank at least half of the goals from bottom to top: the most powerful and energetic OKRs often come from the most active employees… OKRs can help these employees see how their work aligns with the overall goals of the company.

  3. No dictatorship: mutual understanding in the team is important to achieve maximum benefits. Remember OKRs are a stand-alone social arrangement.

  4. Be flexible: One of the greatest strengths of OKRs is that if one of the pieces is not working or is irrelevant, it can be dropped at any point in the OKR cycle.

  5. Be Prepared to Fail: It’s good to have perfect OKRs, that is, to clearly define the goals that are generally agreed to be achieved. However, one of the most compelling aspects of OKRs is “Desired OKR”, which is sometimes called “flight to the moon”. That is, the desired OKR is what happens when you aim for the stars. You can go up low, but still reach the moon, or you can miss it, but still be among the stars.

  6. A tool, not a weapon: Andy Grove wrote that OKRs are like a stopwatch, a tool that measures individual performance. That is, it is something that is not intended to measure other people’s achievements. If you are using OKR to calculate payroll, you are using this tool incorrectly.

  7. Be patient, be decisive: OKR is a trial and error method. It may take several cycles before it starts working naturally or even well. You don’t go to the gym and take the heaviest dumbbell and then wait for instant results. Using OKR is all about developing muscle. John Doerr often says that you need to use OKRs for at least a year so that you have a better chance of building this “muscle”.

Other common OKR issues

There are other frustrating situations that hinder progress when using OKRs. Our own coach Ryan talks about five high-level aspects to look out for:

  • Not tied to the calendar and to specific dates for completing and revising OKRs.

  • Lack of a tool to provide quick access to your OKRs.

  • No clearly defined owner for each OKR.

  • Lack of a good support team (OKR coach) who is good at this issue.

  • Unclear overall purpose of the organization.

When implementing OKRs, tracking progress with tight deadlines is paramount as it is consistent with the practice and time frame when CFRs can occur. As coach Ryan says of performance management, “Google does this (for 75,000 people) for 2.5 weeks every quarter. Set a time frame, understand when to review and start the next cycle. Because without it, the mechanism of influence will not function correctly. ” To keep up with the calendar check out this material

To help prepare for key dates on your calendar, we recommend these tracking tools, they will help individual employees or small teams, but these suitable for large companies. (Second item on Ryan’s list.)

Regarding the fifth point, another problem is that all goals must be aligned with the overall goal of the company. The more closely your organization meets the criteria for an ideal OKR, the better and sooner your organization will see results. If you need help finding the company’s mission statement and understanding all the why’s, check out this material

Where can I get more information?

If you’re still having trouble figuring out what’s wrong with your OKRs, WhatMatters.com can help you. There you can learn about common OKR errors when creating them. Also we have FAQ, resources and stories


Learn more about the Team Lead course.

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Read more:

  • Burnout of employees: basic principles of fighting if you are a team lead


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