A complete guide to understanding & implementing OKRs

Matt Casey

Written by Matt Casey. Co-founder of DoThings. Author of The Management Delusion and We Need to Talk About Scrum.

March 06, 2020

OKRs are great, everyone says so. Google uses them after all, and when do Google do anything wrong? OKRs are a lightweight framework that create alignment and engagement around measurable goals, dontcha know. They’re the best. They never go wrong and everyone who uses them is immediately better off for doing so. Everything is awesome. That seems to be the consensus.

The thing is though…I’m not seeing it. By some distance, the most frequent request for help I get is from clients who have made a mess when trying to implement OKRs. You’d think if they were so great, we wouldn’t need so much help using them. Management tools are supposed to make management easier, after all.

Before you start rounding up the villagers, I’m not bashing OKRs. They genuinely are great. But the way we’re using them is not. They’re supposed to be simple, they’re supposed to be agile, and they’re supposed to be different from other goal setting frameworks. Above all, they’re supposed to be easy.

What I’ve noticed time and time again is that people are using OKRs in a way that makes them exactly the same as any other goal setting framework. The way they structure them makes them SMART objectives in all but name, and the way they apply them makes them just as restrictive and top-down as all the other frameworks. This isn’t helped by the existence of the countless example OKR pages that are filled with examples of terrible OKRs clearly written by people that don’t understand them.

This shouldn’t be happening, OKRs should make managing easier, not harder. I wanted to provide something that actually explained why they’re different to other goal setting frameworks, and showed how to use them effectively.

I’ve written a complete guide to OKRs which is included in our Minimum Effecitve Management section. It’s about a 30 minute read, and it comes in two parts.

Part 1 - Understanding OKRs

Part 2 - A simple way to implement OKRs

Understanding OKRs is crucial if you’re going to be successful with them. These guides should help you avoid the mistakes that so often pull people off track.

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