Overcoming the main pitfalls when setting OKRs


OKRs are trending. Like any good trend, there’s loads of information! But with more information comes more questions. There are many sources on the internet that talk about OKRs, but they don’t always tell you how to do it right. When I search for “how to set OKRs”, I end up with a lot of articles that talk about the power of OKR and why I should use them — but they don’t tell me what pitfalls I should avoid while setting them.

In this article, I will discuss some of the main mistakes when implementing OKRs in organisations, whether you are a startup or a more established organisation.

Setting OKRs is not as easy as it sounds. The best way to get started with Objectives and Key Results is to be aware of the common mistakes other companies make, so you can avoid them.

Here are four common mistakes companies make when setting OKRs:

Not setting clear OKRs.

OKR stands for Objective and Key Result. These two elements have specific definitions that need to be understood before you can set good goals. You must have a specific, measurable goal to strive for in your Objective. Your Key Results are the metrics or metrics that will measure success toward reaching that objective. If your Key Result isn’t measurable or specific enough, it won’t be a good indicator of progress toward your objective. For example, if your objective is “Grow revenue,” then a good key result would be “Revenue will increase by 15 percent each quarter.” This is measurable and clear! Make sure both your objectives and key results are clear and actionable for your team.

Not setting OKRs with any metrics or accountability.

You need metrics so you can measure your progress every quarter, and you need accountability, so you know if you’re doing things the right way. You can’t set an OKR without metrics or accountability.

Not utilizing a regular cadence.

Many companies focus on OKRs in meetings but don’t see them again until quarter-end or the next year’s planning meeting. This isn’t good enough — OKRs should be an ongoing part of how you operate and measure your progress over time. Set a cadence that allows you to review your OKRs within the quarter to allow for corrective action to be taken.

Not gaining the needed buy-in from employees at all levels of the organization when setting OKRs

If people don’t understand why you’re implementing OKRs or if they view them as an unnecessary task, it will be tough to get people to adopt them. Help your employees understand how OKRs will benefit their day-to-day work and how they will help the company grow by making sure to communicate your strategy clearly across the organization and provide examples for different departments and roles.

You can get around these issues but using something like the 3 C’s of OKRs.

3 C’s of OKRs

The three C’s of OKRs can be used to overcome common pitfalls that can derail the process, and stifle the productivity and growth of your team.

1. Communication. The first “C” is communication. It’s impossible to set or achieve goals if you don’t communicate them clearly and effectively to the teams involved. OKRs should be focused on a clear path to growth, and your team must understand that path in detail.

2. Clarity. OKRs must be clear to everyone involved. They must be understandable by both the team that’s setting them, and those working towards them. They must also reflect a specific business objective, rather than a vague generalization about what the company hopes to achieve. It is important for everyone involved to understand exactly what is being worked towards, as well as how their contributions fit into that big picture strategy.

3. Conciseness. When setting an OKR, it’s important to keep it concise and avoid the temptation to add on unnecessary details or metrics that don’t directly contribute to reaching the goal. This will help ensure there is a clear focus for all members of your team, and reduce the risk of confusion over what needs to be done at any given time or which areas of effort should take priority over others


Regardless of whether you are using “OKR” headlines or simply benefitting from an open, transparent culture in your own organization, it is important to focus on the value that OKR’s bring. A collaborative culture with clearly defined goals can help your company to make the most out of its resources and move in the right direction. Remember though, that creating clear goals is not easy so do not be discouraged. It will take time for your company to shift away from traditional methods of measurement and towards OKRs so make sure you are persistent and allow for setbacks along the way.



Learn how to write and manage OKRs. Discover how to combine Strategic Themes, OKRs, KPIs and Strategic Initiatives to achieve high levels of performance across teams.