First, the bad news; most companies that start to adopt OKRs, fail. The good news is that we’ve spoken to experts to learn about the top reasons companies fail to use OKRs. here are the most common ones.

OKR Mistake 1. No support from the senior leadership

If there is one thing OKRs need to succeed, this is it. All the key stakeholders in the team or the company must commit 100% to the OKR process. There is much less incentive for teams to adopt and run with OKRs, the value is only released much later.

How to avoid it: Get Sr Leadership on board!

OKR Mistake 2. Setting too many OKRs

This one is common but easy to fix. make sure teams only pick 2-3 OKRs at max. this will help keep the teams focus and keep things updated, make sure teams are well-staffed, and have buy-in from supporting teams to achieve OKRs successfully

How to avoid it: No more than 3 goals per team with 3-4 Key results. Each with an owner

OKR Mistake 3. Setting OKRs and forgetting them

The second most important reason for OKRs to fail. Teams and leadership set OKRs at the start of the quarter but then forget about them. This too is easy to fix:
1. Do weekly or fortnightly check-ins
2. Have an OKR Champion who makes sure teams follow the process and helps them in case they get stuck

How to avoid it: Run a tight Check-in cadence – learn more about check-ins

OKR Mistake 4. Not learning and evolving

OKRs need a lot of work to make them work. Just like keeping fit, it takes a lot of effort, and results take some time to show up. This means it is easy to quit and get busy with doing things that give instant gratification. The key to success is knowing that most teams won’t get OKRs right the first time, or the second time, or the third time. but in the end when you do. it will be worth it!

How to avoid it: Run retrospectives after each goal cycle to get feedback and Improve

OKR Mistake 5. Using OKRs for Project management

Once the leadership is convinced about OKRs, the next steps are to train team members and managers on the basics of OKRs. this is an important step to make sure teams don’t use OKRs for project and task management. the framework requires a bit of getting used to. learning about what is a good objective, and how to write a good key result is key to implementing OKRs successfully. See curated resources to learn about OKRs

How to avoid it: North can track high-level projects but should not be used as a daily to-do list

OKR Mistake 6. Not celebrating small wins

How to avoid it: Celebrate with Awards

OKR Mistake 7. Spending a lot of time in planning OKRs

This is one about balance and what’s right for your company and culture to know how much is too much. But a sign is when teams are always busy planning and feel exhausted by the process. A good forcing function to use is to say this is good for now. And the only way to get better is to try it and learn from it. If you feel the need, hire an OKR coach who can help with the process

How to avoid: Run a bottom’s up goal-setting workshop. ideally not more than a week.

OKR Mistake 8. Trying to cascade all OKRs

A common mistake people make is to try and cascade everything, from company goals down to department goals down to team goals. this ends up taking way too much time and is a cause for unwanted arguments in organisations. A better way to think about this is to align goals roughly. Not mathematically or clinically.

How to avoid: align over hard cascade OKRs – Learn more about aligning vs cascading goals

OKR Mistake 9. Setting the wrong Key Results

The real power in OKRs comes from setting the right KR (key results), the evidence, or the cues that you’re on the right path to success. the common mistake people make is not spending enough time in figuring out what these should be. Often times teams done even know what should the right key result be to achieve a certain goal — and that’s ok. teams should take their time to first figure this out and then convert these to key results.

How to avoid: Finding the right metrics via an iterative process.


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