OKR

Individual targets & OKR

20th March 2019 · 3 min read

Individual Targets and OKR

We have written a lot about Individual OKRs, which turned out to be a controversial topic. Nowadays, many OKR consultants agree that Individual OKRs should be avoided for the reasons explained in this article.

Even though more and more organizations are abandoning Individual OKRs, what remains unclear is what role (individual) targets should play within an OKR program.

What is an (Individual) Target?

If I say Individual Target I mean any sort of outcome that a sole individual within your organization has been made accountable for. You’ll find such individual targets often in Sales teams, where an individual salesperson will receive a quarterly quota that he or she needs to hit. But you can also find them in Customer Success Teams where a Customer Success Manager can have an individual target to keep churn within her customer base below 2%, or to generate $1 million in expansion revenues from existing clients.

Such individual targets can be business-as-usual for that person (in which case it’s best to set it up as a KPI), or something the person will work on temporarily (in which case it’s best set up as a Key Result).

The pros of Individual Targets

I’m not an expert when it comes to employee performance management, but it seems obvious to me that Individual Targets can boost accountability and make it easy for managers to see which employees perform well and which don’t.

There are claims that they increase healthy competition within an organization (and thus individual performance), but I wasn’t able to find sufficient research to back up this claim. If you do know of other reasons that exist, then please let me know by commenting on this article.

The cons of Individual Targets

Most of the arguments against working with Individual Targets are similar to our arguments against working with Individual OKRs.

The increased focus on the performance of an individual will make it difficult to unite your organization behind the common goals that you have. Individuals will prioritize achieving their own target over everything else, which is not always in the best interest of the company. It can stifle collaboration and lead to stack ranking practices which corrupt culture.

Your OKR program will be more about tracking the performance of an individual, rather than helping you figure out your path to success and get the organization moving down that path.

Do Individual Targets belong in an OKR program?

Taking the above into consideration, I believe they don’t. However, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work with Individual Targets.

Individual Targets are common practice in a lot of organizations, whether we like it or not. Not everybody in an organization is dealing with them, it’s mostly the people that directly impact the bottom-line results of a business that have them, like Marketing, Sales and Customer Success.

There can be valid reasons to track an individual’s performance, but in my opinion this is a team matter. Everyone in the organization will care if the Sales team is hitting its target this quarter, but they don’t have to know how each individual within the Sales team is performing. Therefore, there is no reason to track such Individual Targets in a solution like Perdoo. It’s also not necessary because Individual Targets are almost always already tracked in other software.

How we work with Individual Targets at Perdoo

Perdoo’s Sales team has a very important target that they’re working on each quarter: close $X amount of deals. This is our Sales team’s business-as-usual, which is why this is set up as a Team KPI.

To deliver on this KPI, our Sales team works with Salesforce (a CRM). Within Salesforce, we have a lot of details and reports available, including how much each individual salesperson closed each quarter.

For our company, it’s most important that our Sales team reaches their target every quarter and we share this information across the organization. The details, i.e. how each salesperson performed within a quarter, is not shared company-wide as we consider this to be a matter of the Sales team and the person heading that team.

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