OKRs Vs. KPIs: Everything You Need To Know

OKRs vs KPIs

When it comes to tracking progress and measuring success, two terms that are often used interchangeably in the business world are OKRs and KPIs. Yes, you also might be familiar with the names of these approaches by now. The comparison of OKR vs KPI is a common debate among business leaders. 

OKRs vs KPIs

What is an OKR?

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) represent a robust framework for organization goal-setting and performance management.

Objectives are clear, high-level goals that articulate what an organization, team, or individual aims to achieve. Key Results are specific, measurable outcomes that indicate progress and success toward those Objectives.

OKRs are designed to drive focus, alignment, and accountability by providing a structured approach to setting, communicating, and achieving strategic goals.


In a tech startup, the leadership team might set the Objective of “Achieving Market Leadership in AI-Powered Solutions.” This Objective reflects their ambitious vision for dominating the market.

To measure progress, they establish Key Results, including “Achieve a 30% increase in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) from AI products” and “Secure contracts with at least three major enterprise clients in the AI sector within the next quarter.”

These Key Results offer specific, quantifiable targets that guide the team’s actions. OKRs provide a roadmap for strategic goals and facilitate adaptability by encouraging teams to pivot when necessary to stay in sync with top-level objectives.

What is a KPI?

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are measurable metrics that organizations use to evaluate their performance and progress toward achieving strategic objectives.

KPIs serve as essential yardsticks, offering a clear and quantifiable way to assess various aspects of an organization’s performance, often in the form of numerical data or percentages.


In a retail company, one essential KPI might be “Sales Conversion Rate.” This KPI measures the percentage of website visitors who make a purchase.

For instance, if the company starts with a conversion rate of 2% and implements several improvements in its website design and user experience, leading to a higher conversion rate of 3%, this demonstrates the effectiveness of its efforts.

In this case, the KPI provides a tangible measure of how the organization’s strategies impact its performance.

However, KPIs may fail to foster team alignment with critical business objectives. Consider a scenario in a multinational corporation where one of the strategic objectives is to enhance customer satisfaction across all global regions.

While the company may have KPIs in place to track customer satisfaction scores, individual teams or departments may inadvertently focus solely on their specific KPIs, such as meeting sales targets or minimizing product defects, without realizing the broader context.

This misalignment can result in a disjointed approach, where team efforts are not synchronized with the overarching aim of improving customer satisfaction.

In such cases, KPIs may excel at measuring specific metrics but may not always ensure that every team collectively works towards the company’s fundamental goals.

Differences between OKR vs KPI

AspectKPIs (Key Performance Indicators)OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)
PurposeMeasure and track performance against existing targets and benchmarksSet, communicate, and achieve strategic aspirational goals, fostering innovation and improvement
FocusQuantitative metrics, often related to business operationsBoth qualitative and quantitative aspects, emphasizing outcomes and strategic priorities
ScopeNarrower in scope, aligning with day-to-day operations and ongoing stabilityBroader in scope, concentrating on achieving ambitious and innovative results
Direction and ContextProvide a snapshot of current performanceProvide a clear direction, context, and motivation by tying individual/team efforts to the company’s mission and strategy
Team AlignmentPrimarily aligns with department or functional goalsAlignment across teams, creating a top-down and bottom-up connection
CadenceReviewed regularly but typically remains stable over timeTypically set and reviewed on a quarterly basis, adapting to changing priorities.

Which is better: OKR vs KPI?

Think of KPIs and OKRs as tools in an organization’s toolkit, each with a unique role. KPIs are the bedrock of operational success.

They keep the wheels turning by quantifying the everyday heartbeat of an organization. They provide essential benchmarks and performance baselines, allowing organizations to monitor and manage critical operational aspects effectively.

Whether tracking sales revenue, ensuring top-notch customer satisfaction, or measuring workforce productivity, KPIs are the trusted sentinels of business-as-usual.

On the other hand, OKRs are the ambitious visionaries of goal setting designed to elevate an organization’s performance to the next level.

They encourage teams to align their efforts with the company’s overarching goals.

When an organization sets an Objective like “Dominate the Cloud Services Market,” the associated Key Results become its stepping stones.

These ambitious benchmarks (KRs), such as achieving a 40% increase in market share or reducing customer churn to 5%, set the stage for innovation and growth.

OKRs don’t just keep the business afloat; they propel it to greater heights, creating a culture of audacious performance.

So, which is better, KPIs or OKRs? The truth is, they’re not rivals; they’re partners in progress.

It’s not about choosing between KPIs and OKRs; it’s about recognizing their unique roles in creating a symphony of success.

KPIs maintain the stability of business-as-usual (BAU) operations, while OKRs propel the organization forward, setting the stage for meaningful transformation.

They offer a balance that ensures the company remains rooted in operational excellence while consistently pursuing growth, innovation, and strategic achievement.

Can KPI and OKR work together effectively?

Yes, OKR and KPI can work together. 

KPIs are the anchors of stability, monitoring the vital signs of business-as-usual (BAU) operations, while OKRs represent the innovation engines, propelling the organization toward visionary objectives. This dual approach balances continuity with ambition.

If you read below, you will also understand that OKRs can help the teams focus on KPIs, which are crucial for the business, but somehow, they struggle to achieve them (KPIs).

How can OKR and KPI work together?

Turn aspirational KPIs into OKRs

Suppose a SaaS company can’t bring the customer response time down. They have a KPI tracking their average response time to customer inquiries, which is 24 hours.

However, despite their best efforts, they’ve struggled to bring it down significantly.

To motivate the team to address the issue more ambitiously, the company could convert this KPI into an OKR.

One of the OKRs could be: “Achieve an Average Customer Response Time of 8 hours or less by the end of the quarter.”

This transformation inspires the team to think creatively and implement strategies to achieve a significantly improved response time, ultimately leading to better customer relationships and higher retention rates.

Fixing weak areas

If a KPI reveals high customer churn (which is a crucial problem), the organization can set an OKR to address it.

For example, if the KPI shows a churn rate of 15%, a corresponding OKR could be, “Reduce customer churn to 8% by implementing a comprehensive customer engagement strategy.” This ensures that performance gaps are actively addressed.

Can OKRs replace KPIs?

KPIs play a crucial role in maintaining the foundational elements of a business. And you don’t need to replace a KPI with an OKR.

Instead, you can turn a KPI, which is now showing progress, into an OKR since it is crucial for the business, and we need it to improve.

Consider a scenario where a company’s KPI tracks the website’s uptime, ensuring it remains operational 99.9% of the time.

The KPI directly influences business continuity, as frequent downtime could result in revenue loss and damage the company’s reputation.

However, the organization has been struggling for six months to do it, and converting this KPI into an OKR, such as “Achieve 100% website uptime this quarter,” could be risky, but it’s a win for the business.

This highlights why KPIs are essential for sustaining the core functions of a business while OKRs drive transformative progress in tandem.

Best practices for the OKR and KPI

KPIs best practices


Measure what matters: Prioritize KPIs that impact the bottom line. In a SaaS company, focus on KPIs like “Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)” to ensure revenue growth is consistently tracked.

Regularly review and update: For instance, in a retail business, if you introduce a new product line, adapt your KPIs to include metrics like “Sales of New Product Line” to assess its success.

Promote transparency: Sharing KPIs like “Customer Satisfaction Score” across teams encourages collaboration to improve the customer experience and keeps everyone informed.

Use proper software to manage them: Implement suitable KPI management software to streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting.


Overload with metrics: For instance, instead of tracking every website metric, concentrate on core KPIs such as “Conversion Rate” for an e-commerce site to maintain focus on sales and customer engagement.

Set unclear metrics: Avoid vague KPIs such as “Customer Engagement” without specifying what elements of engagement, like “Average Session Duration” or “Conversion Rate,” are being measured.

Ignore leading indicators: Incorporate leading indicators like “Sales Leads Generated” to forecast future sales success, not just lagging indicators like “Sales Revenue.”

Neglect employee involvement: Encourage teams to set KPIs tied to their roles. In HR, for instance, let recruitment teams track KPIs such as “Time to Fill Job Openings” to improve efficiency.

Set irrelevant and inaccurate metrics: For instance, if you’re a tech startup focusing on app performance, don’t track “Number of Lines of Code Written” as a KPI unless it directly impacts your goals.

Create too-easy milestones: Setting overly simplistic milestones can lead to complacency. For instance, if your customer support team sets a KPI for “Answering All Calls,” it may not encourage them to excel. Instead, consider putting a more ambitious KPI like “Average Call Resolution Time” to promote improved service quality.

OKRs best practices


Run a pilot OKR program if you’re new: If your organization is new to OKRs, consider launching a pilot program in a smaller department or team before implementing it across the entire organization. This allows you to fine-tune the process and learn from the initial experience.

Get the team’s buy-in on the framework before creating OKRs: Before setting OKRs, engage your team in discussions about the OKR framework. Encourage their input and ensure they understand how OKRs align with organizational goals. This buy-in fosters a sense of ownership and commitment.

Make them ambitious yet realistic: Craft Objectives that inspire your team to reach higher but remain achievable.

Set measurable outcomes, not activities: OKRs should focus on outcomes and results, not on daily activities. Instead of specifying tasks like “Hold Weekly Meetings,” frame your OKRs around measurable outcomes like “Improve Team Collaboration and Efficiency” to ensure the focus remains on impact.

Use efficient OKR software: Invest in dedicated OKR software to streamline the creation, tracking, and reporting of OKRs. Efficient software can help maintain transparency, simplify updates, and enhance the overall OKR management process.


Set low-value objectives: Avoid setting Objectives that don’t significantly contribute to the organization’s growth. For instance, setting an Objective like “Organize Weekly Team Meetings” is low in value and doesn’t align with strategic goals.

Have tunnel vision about the metrics: Don’t focus on a single metric to measure success. It’s not just about increasing revenue; it’s also about ensuring customer satisfaction and sustainable growth.

Make Business-as-Usual OKRs: Steer clear of setting OKRs that only maintain the status quo. For example, if you’re in HR, setting an Objective of “Conduct Monthly Payroll” is a business-as-usual task, not a strategic objective.

Create timid aspirational OKRs: Your aspirational OKRs should inspire and push your team to strive for excellence. Instead of setting an Objective like “Increase Sales by 1%,” opt for “Achieve Unprecedented Sales Growth of 50%.”

Fail to differentiate between committed and aspirational OKRs: Ensure clarity in differentiating between OKRs that are committed, meaning they must be achieved, and aspirational, which are challenging but may not be reached. This differentiation is essential for realistic goal-setting and evaluation.

Frequently asked questions

1. How can we balance KPIs for maintaining business operations and OKRs for strategic growth? What’s the right mix?

Balancing KPIs and OKRs is crucial for sustained growth. KPIs ensure your business stays healthy, while OKRs drive it forward. The right mix depends on your organization’s maturity and strategic focus. So, there is no right mix; you must keep planning your KPIs and set aspirational OKRs for transformational growth.

2. I’ve been using KPIs to track team performance for a while. What’s the advantage of incorporating OKRs, and how can they enhance our team’s goal-setting process?

OKRs introduce a transformative element by focusing on aspirations and innovation. While KPIs track performance, OKRs inspire it. They encourage teams to think beyond what they’re currently doing, fostering a culture of constant improvement. OKRs can set ambitious targets for team goal-setting, fostering a sense of achievement when they’re met. They’re also more agile and adapt well to fast-changing environments.

3. How can HR departments effectively integrate KPIs and OKRs to improve talent management, and what are the potential pitfalls to watch out for?

HR can use KPIs to monitor employee performance and OKRs to set broader talent management objectives. For example, a KPI might track the employee turnover rate, while an OKR could aim to reduce it by a certain percentage. The pitfall to avoid is misalignment; HR must ensure that individual employee KPIs support departmental OKRs, and those, in turn, connect with company-wide OKRs.

4. As an individual contributor, how do I connect my daily tasks and KPIs with the broader OKRs of my team or the company, and why is this important for my role?

Connecting your daily tasks and KPIs to team or company OKRs is about understanding how your work contributes to the bigger picture. It ensures your efforts are purpose-driven and aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. For example, if your KPI is “Average Customer Response Time,” it can support the OKR to “Enhance Customer Satisfaction by 20%.” By tracking your performance in the context of the OKR, you can see the direct impact of your work on the company’s success.

5.  Can you provide real-world examples of organizations leveraging KPIs and OKRs to achieve business growth and stability?

Certainly, a notable example is Google. They use KPIs like user engagement metrics for their search engine, which are fundamental for business continuity. However, Google also employs OKRs to drive innovation. For instance, an OKR could be “Achieve 90% market share in the mobile operating system sector.” This balance allows Google to maintain its core business while pursuing ambitious, forward-looking goals.

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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