Can a KPI become an OKR?

Can a KPI become an OKR

Core differences between OKRs and KPIs

Below is a tabular comparison between OKRs and KPIs based on various factors.

               Factor                 OKR                  KPI
NatureOKRs place a stronger focus on strategy and attaining desired results.KPIs primarily emphasize operations and performance.
FocusThey emphasize what needs to be achieved (objectives) and how success is measured (key results).They concentrate on specific performance metrics that directly impact the organization’s goals.
PurposeOKRs drive alignment, engagement, and stretch goals by setting ambitious objectives.KPIs monitor and evaluate ongoing performance against established benchmarks or targets.
TimeframeOKRs are typically set for a shorter time frame (quarterly or annually) to promote agility and adaptability.KPIs can have both short-term and long-term KPIs, focusing on continuous improvement.
AmbitionOKRs promote innovation and growth by encouraging ambitious and aspirational goals that may not be entirely attainable.KPIs aim for realistic and achievable targets to ensure consistent performance.
TransparencyThey promote transparency and visibility of goals throughout the organization.KPIs are often more straightforward to communicate but may not provide the same level of alignment
RelationshipOKRs encourage collaboration and cross-functional alignment, as teams often share objectives.KPIs are often specific to individual teams or departments, with less emphasis on interconnectedness across different levels.

When can KPIs become OKRs?

To address ambitious objectives and tackle highly significant business issues, it may become necessary for the team to convert the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). 

1. Chasing aspirational goals

In the world of big companies or those in the initial stages of development, leaders are driven to go beyond the usual KPIs. They focus on their aspirations and use OKRs to bring about transformation.

This change goes beyond just measuring standalone metrics and allows organizations to set and pursue ambitious team-aligning goals that align with their overall mission.

For example, in a growing mid-sized tech company, the KPI of “Customer Satisfaction Score” may evolve into an OKR like “Achieve a Net Promoter Score of 9 by Q4.” 

This shift indicates a move from tracking satisfaction to inspiring customer advocacy, aligning with the company’s ambitious growth targets.

2. To fix a particularly critical business problem

When faced with an urgent problem that demands innovation, adaptability, and teamwork, OKRs become the primary focus. 

Unlike KPIs, which measure current practices, OKRs are a guiding tool for teams exploring uncharted territories. 

This change is particularly important for companies undergoing transitions, such as adjusting to market changes, meeting customer demands, or improving internal operations.

For example, in a large manufacturing organization, the KPI of “Production Efficiency” may transform into an OKR such as “Reduce Defect Rate by 20% in the Next Quarter.”

Here, the change reflects a strategic focus on addressing a critical issue aligning teams towards a specific, urgent improvement goal.


The powerful framework of OKRs and KPIs allows organizations to succeed at different levels through dynamic interplay. 

While OKRs provide the strategic direction and aspirational goals that drive innovation, KPIs offer tangible metrics that monitor day-to-day performance. 

By combining these two methodologies, organizations can create a holistic performance management system that balances long-term vision with operational efficiency.

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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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