Nobody said that OKR was easy. It requires the perfect combination of understanding, commitment, and coordinated effort. There are many reasons you can use to convince yourself that OKR isn’t the right solution and self-sabotage your success. But OKR is a forgiving and flexible framework that accommodates different companies and industries. Don’t be discouraged and give up before giving yourself a fair chance. Here are the top barriers to successfully adopting OKR and how you can overcome them:
It takes too long to implement
Markets move fast and time is a limited resource. Introducing OKR one day does not instantly translate into radical growth the next. For many, this undertaking is daunting as it requires an ongoing investment of time to nurture the program from infancy to maturity. This is because OKR often involves change management and a cultural shift, as well as a shift in mindset and workflow.
Solution: Persistence builds winning habits. Not a single client gets OKR right on their first try. It takes 1-3 cycles to find the rhythm that’s just right for the company. If you go in thinking “if it doesn’t work in the first cycle, it’s not for us,” you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Introducing OKR can require an increase in transparency, a shift in thinking from outputs to outcomes, and learning a new language. Keep an open mind about the process, constantly iterate, and growth will follow.
Stretch goals aren’t right for us
By definition, stretch goals in OKR are considered achieved if you progress 70%. On a traditional grading scale of 0-100, that would barely be considered passing. Culturally, this may not feel like the right standard since it can feel demotivating to never fully achieve a goal. It might also create unnecessary complexity to your existing workflow, as you consider what “the right” stretch target is, or how best you’ll evaluate performance.
Solution: Abandon stretch goals. The mentality of stretch goals is that by being pushed just a little outside of your comfort zone, it helps to unlock creative thinking. You start to think of ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of due to the confines of logistics. If this still doesn’t sound right for you, then you can implement committed goals where the success is achieving 100%. That way, you stay true to your culture and keep the target expectations clear and simple.
We don’t have a baseline value
There are times when the data is not yet available or you don’t have a baseline for a metric. It then feels overwhelming to try to set a target when your starting point is unclear. It creates more work to create a baseline, so it’s all too easy to resign to this circumstance and not pursue this particular goal.
Solution: Starting is better than not starting at all. It’s better to pick a target and go for it than to not work on the goal at all. You can either commit to an educated best guess or research industry standards for guidance. Otherwise, waiting for the perfect documentation would prevent you from moving forward and it’s the destination that’s most important.
Recording our failures is negative
Closing OKRs is an important step at the end of the OKR cycle. Taking the time to pause and reflect on the OKR allows you to record key learnings. This means documenting successes, as well as failures – and there can be a lot of failures.
Solution: Failure means better decisions. The only way to push forward is to learn from what worked and what did not work. Many organizations find it more valuable to learn from what did not work since it enables you to make better business decisions going forward and foster a culture of learning. If you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.
Everyone already has enough work
It can feel like there is more work than hours in the day. The priority is to do what needs to be done and do it well to maintain a positive standing. There just isn’t time for OKR. Everyone is already stretched, so it’s hard to convince employees to do more than they’re already doing.
Solution: Create autonomy and eliminate fear of failure. OKR showcases the work you’re likely already doing and the impact that’s being created as a result. OKR gives employees the ownership to make progress on a greater purpose. This is a new opportunity for personal fulfillment – to see how the work that they’re doing actually matters. With that in mind, OKR should be one of many topics in performance review conversations and compensation should not be tied to OKR. If you directly tie performance and compensation, then people will be more concerned about their job security. By reducing the fear of discipline for not achieving an OKR, you reduce the fear of failure and empower employees to take more calculated risks that will benefit the company more in the long run.
Greatness requires hard work and determination. OKR is no exception. Resist all excuses as you’ll only limit what you can achieve and the potential of the company.