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OKRs Series-Part 2: 7 Common Mistakes in OKRs and how to avoid them

This is the second article of a 3-part series of articles all about OKRs.

OKR is a popular goal-setting framework that organizations adopt to help them achieve their business objectives. Despite their popularity, OKRs can be challenging, especially if this methodology is being implemented for the first time. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some common mistakes companies make when implementing OKRs and provide tips on how to avoid them.

1-No leadership endorsement

A common mistake when setting OKRs is the lack of support from top management. While they may endorse the new process, if leaders are not actively involved or engaged in the process, their teams will not likely meet their objectives.

Solution: Leaders assist their teams in achieving their objectives, help remove any roadblocks that may prevent progress, and set expectations from the beginning. Communicate to employees that it may take several trials until the process becomes a habit and is fully adopted. It will keep them motivated and disciplined throughout the process.

2-Misalignment with company goals

One major pitfall organizations face when setting OKRs is failing to align them with their overall business objectives. This results in teams focusing on goals that do not effectively contribute to the organization’s success.

Solution: To avoid this, first present the strategy and overall business objectives to your team when initiating the process.

Next, make sure teams are part of the process. Empower them to communicate and collaborate when setting their OKRs in alignment with the strategy.

This allows them to manage interdependencies. Lastly, review them as a team, explicitly discuss how these OKRs are designed to align with business objectives and make sure employees have a forum to ask questions.

3-Setting OKRs top-down

OKRs do not cascade. Instead, they result from a team effort, in which everyone has a role to play.

Solution: Involve their team members in the process of setting objectives and defining key results. Employees will feel a sense of ownership and responsibility, which increases motivation and engagement.

4-Setting too many objectives

While covering all bases may seem like a good idea, setting too many objectives is overwhelming and may cause teams to lose focus, and stall progress.

Solution: Limit the number of objectives set by each team and focus on the most critical ones that will significantly impact the company's success. Less is more here.

5-Setting vague objectives

Another common mistake is setting vague objectives that are too general or too broad.

Solution: Define clear SMART objectives that can be broken down into smaller, manageable tasks. If needed, don’t hesitate to leverage outside experience. Getting advice and training from experts (get in touch) will help in applying best practices and keeping up employee engagement and process discipline.

6-Infrequent or irregular reviews

OKRs are not a set-it-and-forget-it process. They require frequent reviews and updates to ensure that teams are on track to achieve their objectives. Not following up can result in teams losing sight of their goals and failing to make progress.

Solution: Set a cadence to review progress (we recommend monthly) to keep everyone on track, and take action where needed.

7-Focusing only on results

While the key results are an essential part of OKRs, it is equally important to focus on the process of achieving those results.

Solution: Encourage team members to track progress, adjust strategies when necessary, and celebrate small wins along the way. This will help keep the team motivated and engaged throughout the OKR process. Another solution is to run retrospectives. These will help you discuss not just the work but also the ways of working.

Bonus tip

OKRs are a powerful tool to achieve organizational success, but these common mistakes can derail the process. To ensure you don’t face these obstacles, we recommend assigning a process guardian; they will act as an internal champion, overseeing the process so it runs smoothly and efficiently.

If you need help in your OKR setting process, book a 1-on-1 consultation with us today.


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