OKRs Won’t Work if Your Org Won’t Make this One Mindset Shift

Just keeping people busy won’t help if they’re focused on the wrong things

Organizations from small startups to global enterprises have adopted Objectives and Key Results, convinced that simply using the framework will automatically spark new levels of success and innovation.

Much of Google’s exponential growth and impact over the past 20+ years has been attributed to their extensive OKR use, and Spotify, Twitter, and LinkedIn have also adopted them. But the method alone is not the only reason for their success.

For larger, non-digital enterprises, using OKRs effectively will require one fundamental culture shift in how work is assigned, tracked, and rewarded.

Shift from over-indexing on activity and output to outcomes and impact.

Many organizations focus purely on activity and output metrics — they’re highly visible, easy to track, and binary. “Collect 4 use cases; Deliver chatbot feature; etc.” People at all levels of the organization are offered significant rewards to excel at execution.

From an OKR standpoint, shipping means nothing.

Only outcomes matter– changes in customer behavior after the work is delivered (increased usage, improved sentiment) that drive business impact — increased revenue. Everything should be measurable.

OKRs require new levels of strategic clarity, humility, and team empowerment.

Managers in legacy organizations decide quickly what they want built, believing the selected solutions will drive the intended business results.

By contrast, managing via OKRs requires leaders to state, “Team — given our retention strategy focus, engage and delight clients using your deep knowledge of the technology, the clients, and the data in a way that will deliver us these results.”

OKRs can deliver on their promise, but only if management starts with a clear strategy, and empowers teams to deliver client behavior change outcomes that ladder up to business impact.


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