In last week’s post I explained the risk of focusing on being an efficient leader. Efficiency needs to be focused on the right things. Getting better at the wrong things doesn’t help and more likely makes things worse. The same is true when using OKR’s. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results, an approach created by legendary Intel leader Andy Grove. John Doerr reinvigorated the concept in his best selling book, ‘Measure What Matters‘.
Objectives are the outcomes an organization wishes to achieve, and the Key Results are sub-goals or milestones. The Key Results guide your way to achieving the Objective or desired outcome. If used well, the OKR process is highly effective. They help an organization take action that will lead to its desired outcomes.
So What’s the Problem with OKR’s?
Some organizations pride themselves on execution excellence. When they set out a goal, they make sure they achieve it. No excuses are acceptable, the only thing that matters is achieving the goal. I used to work at a company that was execution oriented. It was great in that we got a tremendous amount of things done. Looking back, I wonder if that was all good.
The focus on execution sometimes ignored whether the completion of Key Results were leading to the achievement of the Objective. We lost the connection between the two. We prided ourselves on all the great work we were doing, not realizing it wasn’t adding any value. In fact, it could have been making things worse. We were getting better at the wrong things.
When it’s Time to Change the Plan
The key is constantly checking your Key Results are leading to achievement of the Objectives. If not, you need to stop and change your plans. This can be very difficult, especially when stopping is seen as failure. This is when you need to lead and reward the work even though it didn’t create the desired outcome. It did yield something valuable, learning what does and doesn’t work and that can be priceless.