Why Your Company’s OKR System Might Be Broken

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What if we tell you that more than 60% of organizations with an employee strength of more than 500 employees who are doing OKRs are actually not doing OKRs. They are doing MBO’s (Management by objectives) with the look and feel of an OKR platform. This is where companies remain on the backfoot for achieving the goals as anticipated. 

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Of late, OKRs became trendy when the world was looking for an objective-setting methodology. When OKRs came to the public domain last decade, the initial idea was simply to focus, execute and align the teams better. It was also meant to use employees’ brainpower by involving them in the process. But companies these days misunderstand involving employees in the process by differentiating their objectives and goals. Even Harvard Business review believes that OKRs fall short when companies attempt to apply them to individual contributors. As humans, we’ve discovered that goals are critical to success as they provide a clear objective. When done correctly, these goals also equip people to see the progress made. OKR does the same. Well-written OKRs ease the process of Performance management as well as enhance employee experience. But what is that thing that many companies are doing wrong, and why you can’t rely on that wrongdoing in 2021. Let’s first understand OKRs

What are OKRs?

According to American author and Investor John Doerr, Objective and critical results are “A management methodology that helps ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization.” 

In other words, Objectives are where we want to go, whereas key results are how we are going to reach our destination. As we complete each key result, we can measure our progress towards the initial goal. 

For companies like Google, Twitter, Uber, Adobe, and LinkedIn, OKRs have proved to be a pivotal contributor to success. The Google CEO has also said that “OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over.”

However, In order to get implemented successfully, OKRs should be

 • Significant

• Concrete

• Action-oriented

• Inspirational

But, contrary to this, what companies are doing today is exactly the opposite by not defining OKRs and aligning them with the company’s objectives. This is the reason why their OKRs have turned into broken systems. Here are two solid reasons why you can’t rely on your broken OKR management in 2021 and the coming years?

‣ Unpredictable Business Environment:

The year 2020 was no less than a roller coaster ride. Many companies struggle with managing employees and their daily tasks, but for Employee-centric organizations, things were different. They managed employees and handled the situation as they already had all the necessary tools ready to work remotely. Thus, companies that embrace agile most comprehensively throughout are the most successful.

‣ Expansion:

Companies are in the era of expansions. What most companies overlook while adding more employees is an ‘effective goal management system.’ While expanding, the goal should be on ensuring everyone is going in the same direction, with straightforward tasks, and in a constant rhythm. So, if your company is also moving towards growth, there’s no other way to grow than re-calibrating the OKR system.

But, what makes an OKR management system broken? How to identify if your OKR management platform is broken? These are some questions that underlie here. 

There’s an old saying, a trip without a plan is a trip to nowhere, the same way, OKRs with proper Alignment of goals and objects are meant to be broken eventually. 

According to OKR Annual Report 2020 by There Be Giants, 90% of organizations using OKR cite “alignment” as the reason why they introduced OKR. However, Alignment is unfortunately often misinterpreted. This brings us to our first reason that makes OKR management broken. 

‣ No Team Alignment:

Alignment can make or break the organizational structure. If used well, OKR can work wonders in the area of Alignment and vice versa. However, Alignment does not mean knowing what others are doing. Instead, seeing in a broader concept, Alignment is achieved when everyone has a common understanding of the vision and current strategy.   Not only this, when the business priorities flow logically and directionally across the team, ensuring their efforts are being invested on high-impact objectives- Businesses stay aligned

‣ Setting and Forgetting OKRs:

OKRs are generally supposed to be reviewed and re-defined quarterly, whereas some tasks should be reviewed weekly or daily. Now, what most companies do wrong is set the OKRs at the start of the quarter and then not revisit them until three months later. Regular OKR check-ins are considered the heart of a good OKR strategy. Thus, when the wrong cadence is chosen, teams stop updating their OKRs, and when the managers and teams are not paying attention to OKRs, the process is already dear.

All your OKR implementation will go in vain without follow-up. There are three crucial aspects of OKRs

 • Objectives

• Key results

• Follow-ups

Failing in the last one can break even the well-thought-out OKR as well. Follow-ups allow the evaluation of what each individual is doing to reach the company’s OKR. Constant meetings and follow-up not only help employees to align their goals but also give them an opportunity to receive constructive feedback. Many companies don’t believe in having a 1-on-1 weekly meeting to assess the situation well, and this is where their well-defined OKRs stand on the backfoot. According to the article published in Forbes on OKRs, many companies don’t provide “regular and detailed feedback” and instead “set annual (and often meaningless) goals that are rarely revisited. This is why enabling open communication in a workplace with regular 1-on-1 weekly meetings is essential for a company’s success and is vital for successful OKRs.

‣ Choosing Inappropriate objectives

Most companies rely on the OKRs that are ‘unachievable and inappropriate.’ The OKRs of any company should be ambitious or can be a bit aggressive at times, but they shouldn’t be inappropriate. While setting the OKRs, there should be clear and proper communication with the employees to react better to the achievable OKRs. When the OKR of a company is set too high, it results in creating distrust of OKRs. This way, unachievable OKRs can shift from their original purpose, i.e., driving performance, to inhibit it. 

‣ Poorly Designed KRs

One of the major mistakes that companies make while setting key results is misunderstanding them with a plan, designing them poorly, and confusing them with the goals. Key results are designed to convey goals not the plan of action. 

Here are some examples of poorly designed KRs that you might be doing wrong

KR 1: Run 5 Paid campaigns

KR 2: Making a massive shift to the new onboarding flow

KR 3: Launch a mobile app

‣ Unaligned Resources:

We talked about why it is important to communicate with employees while creating OKRs but what’s more important is communicating with employees in order to make the objectives and key results successful. It’s important to know and understand if the employees need additional training or build a learning curvature. Analyzing resources provide employees support to achieve the tasks given. Thus, if a company can’t get OKRs done realistically, they fail. 

Now that you know all the possible reasons that contribute to the broken OKR management let’s connect the dots that boils down to how to fix your OKRs

‣ Shift your focus to outcomes:

As discussed in the beginning, objectives in OKRs are where you want to go, but in order to make your OKR platform reliable in 2021 and coming years, it’s important to shift our focus to what you want to accomplish. This is a massive shift in the mindset that organizations need to bring in for effective goal attainment. 

‣ Implementation of Quarterly OKRs:

Once the OKR planning is done, the next thing is implementation. Not on papers but in real practice. For effective implementation and goal attainment, Quarterly OKRs are most common and effective. One thing not to forget, OKRs are difficult at times and take time. Thus, it’s essential to be patient with the OKRs by conducting regular 1-on-1 meetings and discussions for shaping the best OKRs.

Final Take: 

OKRs can prove to be a silver bullet if used well and supported with employee engagement techniques. A well-managed OKR platform not only empowers teams but also changes the mindset of the organization. Thus, the probability of making your dreams a reality is higher with OKRs, not just for organizations but also for individuals’ personal goals. For this, a sound OKR platform will make it easier to keep track of all the goals and use them as future references. An Okr Software will unite, motivate, and drive your company to achieve its objectives. JOP does exactly the same for you. As an OKR software and Employee Experience platform,  JOP introduces the companies to a seamless goal-setting model that helps managers track employees’ progress by keeping them motivated throughout the process. Not only this, throughout the OKR process, JOP considers what’s most important- infusing the joy of performing. Intrigued to know more? Schedule a demo with us today!

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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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