10 Reasons OKR Projects Fail to Deliver on Initial Promises and What You Can Do About It

OKR Projects

OKRs help organizations engage their workforce, execute their business strategy and steer the organization toward desired success. OKRs have historically been used by top firms such as Google and Amazon to empower their staff and foster hypergrowth. However, not every company that uses OKRs will get it right from day one. This is why it is critical to understand the reasons why OKRs can fail. 

OKRs are more than just to-do lists; they are aspirational objectives that drive superior performance. They assist employees in having a deeper understanding of attaining their daily tasks on a regular and efficient basis, as well as making collective and concentrated efforts toward common goals. The benefits they bring to the table are unparallel, and that’s why the OKR software is one of the most widely used business tools today. 

Organizations of all sizes and industries are known to get the desired growth and success by adopting OKR software. Plenty of suggestions reflect that if used correctly, OKR can do wonders for the business. So, let us understand the top reasons why OKR can fail and what you can do about it. 

OKR Projects

1. No regular follow-ups

OKRs must be measurable, with quantitative key results. It’s easy to lose sight of these goals in a fast-paced workplace, so keeping track of them is critical. To complete and track these, the business must do weekly check-ins and reviews. With the availability of software programs, this process has become much easier and more cost-effective. 

OKRs are an excellent tool for driving organizational growth, and when used appropriately, it ensures that everyone remains focused on high-impact objectives. However, despite their simplicity, the importance of having these regular follow-ups shouldn’t be underestimated. The key to successful OKR implementation is to have regular follow-up sessions and check-ins with the team. No matter how good the OKRs system is, it will lead nowhere if you get distracted and fail to follow through.

2. Getting the entire organization onboard

Establishing clear objectives for your teams and testing whether these objectives can be met through a pilot program is critical. OKRs are not required for every team or department, and each company’s and team’s OKRs should be adjusted to their individual needs. 

You should never deploy OKRs for the entire organization right from the start now. It has the potential to overwhelm both you and your staff. As explained, running a trial project with your best-performing team may be the most effective method to begin implementing the OKRs system. You will have more opportunities to learn, adjust, and identify potential hazards due to this approach.

3. Absence of ideal tools

OKRs require continuous updates and follow-ups, which are only possible if all team members can access and understand the tools. Using a spreadsheet or document file to update the OKRs is not the right way to use the OKR approach. Not having the right OKR software or OKR tool will make it a manual reporting method, disrupting the process. 

Having the right software in place to handle OKRs is important to ensure that your team meets all of its objectives on schedule. You defeat the purpose of using the highly beneficial OKR methodology when you complicate it by using documents and spreadsheets. So, ensure you get the OKR software before you onboard your teams with OKRs. 

4. Using OKRs for evaluating performance 

The OKR methodology is always used to set and achieve aspirational goals. Team members are encouraged to establish goals above their current capabilities and to search for creative solutions to attain such aims. However, as these goals are far-fetched,  team members frequently miss numerous such objectives. This is why experts highly advise against using OKRs for performance reviews and evaluations

If employees start getting punished for not achieving their OKRs, teams will set smaller goals they know they can achieve next time. And the next time, even lower to mitigate dangers. You’d eventually have a list of roles your teams fulfill to obtain their salary and bonus.

5. Chasing too many objectives 

OKRs is about directing resources toward outcomes that matter. Having more than five OKRs will lead to a lack of focus and make the organizational culture chaotic. Organizations should limit to 3 to 5 OKRs to avoid overwhelming their workforce. Ensure that you follow the more is less approach, as having more OKRs will not bring any benefit but will backfire. 

Items in the “business as usual” category, such as replying to emails, should only be included in OKRs if your goal is to change the way you do business as usual. This means focusing on a member’s day-to-day roles and incorporating them into the OKRs system will also not do any good.

6. Establishing way too far-fetched goals

Large organizations often narrow their approach to only long-term projects. As a result, objectives are frequently focused on reaching the final result of these projects rather than creating value along the route. If objectives take longer to achieve than your strategic cadence, they should either become the organization’s ultimate mission or be split down to offer value within your tactical cadence. 

The best method to cope with this is to use the OKRs system to divide long-term goals into shorter-term objectives. Ensure you always remember that the main purpose of structuring these goals is to lay clearly defined, ambitious, realistic objectives. 

7. Structuring only top-down objectives 

The traditional management style required a top-down cascade of objectives. OKRs, on the other hand, are designed to supercharge organizations using team expertise and experience, allowing them to select how they will best contribute to achieving your organization’s ultimate mission. 

Leadership must collaborate with teams to establish and implement the strategy. While the leaders determine what the future will appear like, teams must determine how to produce that future. Teams cannot be expected to identify short-term objectives (OKR) without a clear strategy and focus (North Star Metric). The key to success is managing the movement between these levels.

8. Improper cadence

It is a prevalent misapprehension that OKR can only be used in quarterly cycles. Team and individual OKRs are tactical, whereas company OKRs are strategic. This tactical OKR cadence is usually a quarter or half year for medium and big organizations. These businesses often serve many consumers, so a quarterly/half-yearly rhythm works well for them, with regular check-ins to measure progress. 

It should be noted that going beyond a half-yearly frequency may not be advisable, especially given the quick pace of technology development within business landscapes. On the flip side, startups are dynamic in nature and expand quickly. Their objectives are continuously changing. To match a startup’s growth, the frequency of setting OKRs must be substantially higher.

9. Combining BAUs and OKRs

The fundamental purpose of OKRs is to focus on outcomes that will have an impact rather than chores that are part of your regular routine, such as having a daily meeting with the marketing department. Working with too many OKRs (more than five) will ultimately lead to a lack of focus. 

So, if your purpose is just to keep doing what you’re doing (business as usual), there’s no need to include those items in your OKRs. 

If your goal is to modify how you go about your everyday responsibilities, include something in your OKRs. However, it is to be remembered that OKRs should be the high-impactive objectives of the organization. So, these should always be established, keeping the ultimate goal and vision of the business and not the employees’ daily duties. 

10. Practicing the best strategies without questioning.

While taking inspiration from industry techniques is a wonderful idea, blindly duplicating them can backfire. Because of Google’s success, the OKR framework grew popular, and many firms attempted to emulate Google’s approach without understanding the context. 

What works for an organization might not work for another organization. This is why experts suggest that there is no one correct way of using the OKR software. Organizations should experiment, try and analyze what works best for them concerning their desired goals. Only after that will the organization know the best way to use the OKR software and how to maximize the benefits of this approach. 

If you still have doubts or need proficient guidance in rolling out the OKR management in your organization, talk to the experts here!

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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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