OKR vs. KPI: How they compare and how they work together

6th January 2017 · 4 min read

OKR vs. KPI: How they compare and how they work together

This is the last of a five-part series examining how OKR compares with other management frameworks. In this post, we look at how OKR compares to KPIs.

  1. OKR vs EFQM
  2. OKRs vs. SMART Goals
  3. OKR vs 4DX
  4. OKR vs Balanced Scorecard
  5. OKR vs KPIs

At Perdoo, we receive many questions about OKR vs. KPI and whether or how the two work together. Since there seems to be some misunderstanding about the definitions of an OKR and a KPI and how both work, we’ll provide more clarity and explain the synergy between the two.

Let’s first have a closer look at what OKRs and KPIs really are.

What does OKR stand for?

OKR stands for Objective & Key Result. Simply put, an Objective tells you where to go, and a Key Result will let you know whether you’re there or not.

When working with OKR, you will, therefore, have to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Where do you need to go?
  2. How will you know you’re there?

We also suggest adding a third:

  1. What will you do to get there?

The third question will generate Initiatives: things you’ll do to get to your OKRs. They complete the picture and help people understand the difference between Key Results and Initiatives (which people often mix up).

Let’s have a look at each question in more detail.

  • Where do you need to go?
    The answer is the Objective. It should provide a clear direction, such as a street name. Your Key Results will provide the house apartment number. Examples:
    1. Grow new business revenue (Sales OKR examples)
    2. Improve our customer experience (Customer Service OKR examples)
  • How will you know you’re there?
    The answers are Key Results, the results you need to achieve to reach the Objective. They provide the house and apartment number. Examples:
    1. Close deals worth $100.000
    2. Increase our NPS from 70 to 80
  • What will you do to get there?
    The answers are Initiatives, the things you’ll do to achieve your Objectives and Key Results. It’s every movement toward the apartment. Examples:
    1. Host 100 product demos
    2. Implement in-app live chat

There is a lot more to learn about writing OKRs. We wrote an OKR eBook that has everything you need to get started.

What does KPI stand for?

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. It is a type of performance measurement, aimed at evaluating the success of an ongoing process or particular activity. There are many different types of KPIs, and choosing the right KPIs depends on factors like the industry you’re in and the maturity of your organization. Each department or team will use different KPIs to measure success. KPIs are sometimes also called health metrics.

Let’s look at a few popular KPI examples.


  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Trial-to-Customer Conversion Rate


  • Tickets per Month
  • Average Reply Time


  • Web traffic
  • Visitor-to-Signup Conversion Rate

What’s the Difference between an OKR vs. KPI?

OKRs provide the missing link between ambition and reality. They help you break out of the status quo and take you into new, often unknown, territory. If you have a big dream—an inspiring Ultimate Goal—for your company, you need OKRs that take you there.

A KPI, on the other hand, measures the success, the output, quantity, or quality of an ongoing process or activity. They measure processes or activities already in place.

Very often, a KPI that needs improvement will be a starting point for creating an OKR, and it will become a Key Result of an Objective. Accordingly, an OKR vs. KPI comparison is a bit like comparing a fruit salad with an orange, they both contain fruit, but one is a combination that contains the other.

How do OKRs and KPIs play together?

Because of their complementary scope, OKRs and KPIs are natural companions. The best way to show how they work together is to give some examples.

Example: A support KPI below target becomes a Key Result

Let’s say you want to measure the success of your Support team. You could create a KPI that measures the average reply time for incoming support tickets. If you agree with Support that the average reply time should be 30 minutes or less, you’ll be able to instantly see  whether your target is met.

As long as that is the case, you’re all good. But what if the KPI indicates the average reply time currently is 48 minutes? You probably want to create an Objective to Improve customer support. How would you know you’ve improved it or not? Well, if the average reply time drops from 48 to 30 minutes. So that would be your Key Result. What will you do to make that happen? You may want to hire an extra support manager, streamline processes or implement Zendesk (which are all Initiatives).

Example: Improving the customer experience at Perdoo

One of our KPIs at Perdoo is NPS (Net Promoter Score), -100 being the lowest and +100 the highest possible score. We want this NPS to be at least at 75. Since we want to get our customers excited about your product and services, NPS is a prominent KPI on our KPI dashboard. As long as our NPS is 75 or above, we’re good. If we see it drop below that level, we will immediately create an Objective to improve our customer experience, with a Key Result to increase NPS from x to 75. That would be a big Objective to which many teams contribute: Support, Success, Product, etc. Once we’ve fixed our customer experience, we will monitor it again on our KPI dashboard.

As you see, your KPI dashboard can serve as a source of inspiration when defining new OKRs. A KPI may tell you that you have a problem, but you’ll need an OKR to actually fix it. Good Objectives contribute to your company’s Ultimate Goal or fix problems that prevent you from realizing your dream.

OKR vs. KPI: Conclusion

Look at your KPI dashboard as your car’s dashboard. It tells you if you still have enough oil, how much fuel you’ve got left, if the engine isn’t too hot, and so on. OKR is your navigation software. If your fuel level (KPI) indicates you’re running out of gas, you need your navigation software to get you to the closest gas station.

In other words: OKR and KPI work perfectly together. KPIs help monitor performance and identify problems and areas for improvement; OKRs help solve problems, improve processes, and drive innovation. You’ll need both.

Are you a Perdoo user?

You are now up to speed with how OKRs and KPIs work together in helping push organizations forward and realize their ambitions. Here’s a complete overview of how your team’s work is reflected in Perdoo.

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  • excellent post, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector do not realize this.

    You must proceed your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  • Dom says:

    Could be a case of KPIs serving OKRs and Viceversa?

    Is there any case that OKRs can be measured by KPIs and see how well we are achieving them and, eventually forecast when our OKRs will be met?

    Is there an opportunity for a High-level OKR be assessed by Low-level KPIs?

    • Henrik-Jan van der Pol says:

      Hi Dom,

      What do you mean by “Could be a case of KPIs service OKRs”? Are you asking for an example? I believe these are explained in the article.

      To answer your second and third questions, KPIs and OKRs are different kind of instruments that you can use to measure performance within your organization. Sometimes people find it difficult to differentiate between the two since both KPIs and Key Results contain metrics. For more information, I recommend you to read the following article:

  • Johan says:

    Excellent explanation of OKRs and KPIs and how the link. Nice. Thank you.

  • Great stuff. There is a lot of confusion about the two.

    I like the dashboard/GPS metaphor. KPIs are the gauges that show how you’re doing. OKRs give the proper direction as well as a healthy stress to motivate everyone to put in their best effort. At times, KRs and KPIs are the same. Both must be coherent, consistent and complete.

  • Arjan says:

    So basically, OKRs and KPIs relate to each other like Leadership and Management. Management enables getting the job done in the most efficient manner, Leadership determines direction and what needs to be done to get there. Thanks for this article!

  • Thanks for the great article. The distinction you make here is so critical (uppercase emphasis mine):

    “A KPI, on the other hand, measures the success, the output, quantity, or quality of an ONGOING process or activity. They measure PROCESSES OR ACTIVITIES ALREADY IN PLACE.”

    As you note, if you can align key results you of your OKRs to existing KPIs, that makes them even stronger. But it strikes me that sometimes those KPIs might not fit, and you’ll have to add supplemental measures in your Key Results. Does that sound right?

    • Rob Davies says:

      Yes. We see OKRs as something you can use as a tool to bring KPI’s back to healthy levels if you have a problem. We wouldn’t recommend, however, that when creating OKRs you always look to use existing KPIs for your Key Results.

      KPI’s are like your car dashboard, they’re constant, they keep you within the speed limit and from running out of fuel. OKRs are like your GPS, they take you to places you haven’t been before.

  • Thomas Mer says:


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