What is the Difference Between OKRs, KPIs, and SMART Goals?

difference between OKR and KPI and SMART goals

What are OKRs?

OKRs is a goal-setting framework that helps organizations define and track their objectives and the key results needed to achieve them. 

In simple terms, OKRs are a way for teams and individuals to set clear goals and measurable outcomes, promoting alignment and focus within an organization.

What are KPIs?

KPIs are measurable values that help organizations assess their progress toward specific business objectives. 

These indicators are used to evaluate the performance of a team, department, or the entire organization in achieving its strategic goals. 

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are a framework for creating well-defined and achievable objectives. 

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

SMART goals help ensure that objectives are clear, feasible, and have a structured plan for success.

OKRs vs. KPIs vs. SMART goals

OKRs set ambitious goals and track progress, KPIs measure success, and SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Below are the critical differences between OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals, categorized under relevant headings:

                  OKRs                 KPIs           SMART goals

OKRs align teams, drive focus, and promote a results-oriented culture within an organization.


KPIs track our progress, identify areas for improvement, and assess the effectiveness of strategic initiatives.


SMART goals provide a clear and attainable framework for setting goals that align with organizational objectives.


They include one or more high-level goals backed by concrete and measurable key outcomes.


KPIs include a collection of specific measurements that show how well a specific part of the company is doing.


They comprise goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.


OKRs are great for establishing ambitious, high-quality goals and tracking progress in a dynamic setting.


They are widely used across industries to track performance against specific targets and strategic goals.


SMART goals are applicable across various contexts, from personal development to project management.


OKRs encourage adaptability and the setting of new objectives as circumstances change.


KPIs may change but often remain more stable than OKRs, adapting to long-term organizational strategies.


They provide a structured approach to goal-setting, but goals can be revised as circumstances change.

What are the pros of OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals?

There are various situations where each approach can come in handy. Consider these factors before choosing a method.

                  OKRs                 KPIs            SMART goals

OKRs promote alignment within an organization, ensuring everyone strives towards shared goals.

    Measurable success

KPIs provide a clear and measurable means to assess success by focusing on quantifiable metrics.

    Clarity and precision

SMART goals emphasize specificity, ensuring that objectives are clear and well-defined.


OKRs are created to be flexible, enabling teams to adjust and change direction as required.

  Performance monitoring

KPIs help organizations keep track of their performance in real time. This immediate feedback enables them to adjust their strategies to achieve their goals.


The SMART approach stresses achievable goals to prevent disappointment and lack of motivation from unrealistic objectives.


OKRs are transparently established to inform everyone about the organization’s goals, encouraging a sense of responsibility as progress is visible to all team members.


KPIs are valuable tools for strategic decision-making. They provide insights into what is working well and what areas may need improvement,

      Progress tracking

SMART goals have measurable elements, making it simple to track your progress.

    Continuous learning

The key results component of OKRs encourages a mindset of continuous learning and improvement. Teams are encouraged to set ambitious yet achievable goals.


KPIs facilitate comparing performance with industry standards or competitors, enabling performance assessment and identifying areas where it can excel.

     Focus on relevance

SMART goals highlight the importance of setting goals relevant to the overall mission and strategy.

Motivation and     engagement

The aspirational nature of objectives in OKRs can boost motivation among employees.

Efficiency and productivity

KPIs are essential in helping teams allocate their efforts and resources effectively by focusing on important indicators.

  Time-bound commitment

SMART goals set deadlines, promote a proactive mindset and deter procrastination.

What are the cons of OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals?

While OKR, KPI, and SMART goals are widely used frameworks for goal setting and performance measurement, they also have downsides. 

Here are some of the drawbacks associated with each approach:

                 OKRs                   KPIs            SMART goals
          Learning curve

Implementing OKRs can be complex and may require a learning curve for teams unfamiliar with the methodology.

        Metrics overload

Too many KPIs can lead to information overload, making it difficult for teams to focus on the most critical metrics.


Not all projects or objectives can fit SMART goals. Flexibility can be beneficial for certain initiatives.

Potential for short-term focus

OKRs may prioritize short-term outcomes over long-term strategic objectives, potentially overlooking crucial elements for long-lasting success.

  Lack of holistic view

Focusing solely on KPIs can limit perspective, hinder teamwork, and prevent teams from understanding the broader impact of their actions.

Measuring objectives is difficult

Some qualitative or subjective goals might not easily fit into the SMART framework, which could restrict its usefulness in certain situations.

Possible overemphasis on ambitious goals

Setting overly ambitious goals may lead to unachievable expectations, demoralizing teams constantly confronted with impossible objectives.

        Static nature

KPIs can become irrelevant or outdated as industries change. Relying solely on fixed KPIs may not accurately reflect performance in a constantly evolving landscape.

Overemphasis on short-term results

SMART goals may encourage focusing on short-term results, potentially overlooking the importance of long-term strategic planning and initiatives.

Examples of OKRs, KPIs, SMART goals

Setting clear, measurable goals is essential for success in any organization. There are three popular frameworks for setting goals: OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals. 

Here are some examples associated with each approach:

  • OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)

Objective: Foster innovation and creativity

KR1: Launch two new product features based on customer feedback within the next six months.

KR2: Implement a company-wide innovation program, resulting in at least 50 employee-generated ideas.

  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Achieve a 20% increase in quarterly sales revenue.

Maintain a conversion rate of at least 15% for online leads.

Reduce the average sales cycle duration to less than 60 days.

  • SMART goals

SMART goal: Improve team communication

Specific: Implement a new communication platform to streamline team collaboration.

Measurable: Increase team response time by 30% compared to the previous communication tool.

Achievable: Provide training sessions for all team members to ensure a smooth transition.

Relevant: Enhance cross-functional communication to minimize project delays.

Time-bound: Complete the transition and assess improvements within the next two months.


OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals each bring unique advantages to the table, catering to diverse needs and responsibilities.

Ultimately, the choice between OKRs, KPIs, and SMART goals depends on the organizational context, the nature of the objectives, and the level at which the goals are set. 

Often, a combination of these frameworks proves most effective, allowing organizations to set inspiring, measurable, and achievable goals while continually evaluating and adjusting their strategies to meet the evolving needs of the business landscape.

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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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