22 experts explain the main benefits of OKRs
Looking to get executive buy-in, or to sell the benefits of OKRs to your boss, colleague, or business partner? We asked 22 experts, coaches, and thought-leaders what they think are the main benefits of OKRs, both for employees and the companies rolling them out.
Here's an insight into some of the answers supplied by our experts:
- Companies become customer-centric if they take a shift from output to outcome seriously
- The employer engagement and motivation increases through shifting from “leaders tell what to do”, to “leaders explain the context and we develop solutions”
- The single biggest advantage of setting a singular company objective and key result set is alignment. Once everybody knows what's important to the company, everybody can do their best to make it happen
- OKRs provide a framework for prioritising their work so they can deliver things that matter. Consequently, they also gain autonomy
- With clarity at the top (company-level OKRs), teams throughout the organisation then have the opportunity to demonstrate their unique contribution to overall success
- Working oriented by a shared purpose
- It will help you to become a more adaptable and viable organisation
- OKRs help to increase business resilience
Cansel Sörgens, Business Coach, OKR Coach & Trainer
The most obvious and easily activated benefit is the conversation, which they might have never had. The conversation about shared vision and goals. Once people from all levels and functions start talking about their shared goals, they quickly realise that they need to collaborate no matter how the organisation's structures are. OKR connects the dots top-down, bottom-up, sideways and all the space in-between.
Second, they become customer-centric, if the company takes a shift from output to outcome seriously. As soon as the discussion during OKR definition shifts from "how many new products/features they have" to "how many customers really need and use it” they start thinking about minimising output while maximising outcome.
Third, the employer engagement and motivation increases through shifting from “leaders tell what to do” to “leaders explain the context and we develop solutions”. As Daniel Pink describes in his book Drive, intrinsic motivation is activated, if employees have the autonomy over the solutions to solve problems, have possibilities to develop mastery, and see their connection to how they contribute to the bigger picture, hence having a purpose.
However, this all is not given. It needs strong will and hard work to create such an environment.
Christina Wodtke, Radical Focus Author, OKR Expert, Consultant & Stanford Lecturer
1. Alignment: If the strategy is missing or convoluted or not messaged often enough, the OKR cadence can make sure the entire company knows what the strategic goals are each quarter
2. It's qualitative and quantitative. Some people in the company are very moved by numbers. Others by meaning. A good OKR set combines an inspiring vision in the objective and then it brings it down to earth with the hard metrics that make up the key results
3. Reflection. In education we know that reflection increases both comprehension and retention. The OKR cadence (just like Scum's retros) helps create a learning company. Learning is the most important skill in business today
4. Delegation: many startup founders have a hard time as the company grows to stop micromanaging. But no one can keep track of all the activities of a good sized company. By setting a clear OKR set, founders can set a direction without overseeing all the "how can we do it."
Mukom Tamon, Chief Excellence Officer™️ Academy, OKRs, 4DX & Lean Six Sigma expert (@perfexcellent)
Companies: Clarify strategic objectives into concrete terms to which everyone at a given level can link their activities to things that matter to the company.
Employees: OKRs done right (results over activity) enables an employee to focus & deliver work that's truly valuable, leaving the exact activities to the employees discretion hence more freedom & autonomy/
Monica Batsleer, Senior Partner of OKR Matrix
I could say three main benefits for companies:
1. Strategic alignment: It is not uncommon to see companies struggling to communicate their strategy clearly. Clear communication of strategy bridges the gap between executives and team execution.
2. Short-Term Execution: Many executives have a clear roadmap strategy in their heads. However, in my experience, most of them struggle to think and build short-term strategic execution. During strategy meetings, they spend most of their time discussing 3-5 years ahead and forgetting what they should be doing in the current year to achieve the long term. OKRs help them think and write accurate short-term goals.
3. Focus and Prioritization: How OKRs help to think about short-term execution, at the same time, cause executives to be specific about what they want. To build a solid short-term strategy, companies must break down their strategies into small, consistent results, focusing on what really matters at the moment
For employees, three main benefits are:
1. Autonomy: By being clear in communication, companies provide clarity about what they must achieve. After building a strong alignment, teams can be autonomous to make better decisions and decide how to achieve their goals for themselves.
2. Protagonism: By allowing teams to make decisions, employees feel a sense of prominence throughout the entire process. Ownership is acquired when people are involved in setting their goals and initiatives.
3. Collaboration: individualism plays no role in the OKRs. By establishing common goals, employees organize themselves to work in multidisciplinary teams, that is, more collaboration and fewer “silos”.
Paul Niven, Global OKR Coach & OKR Author
When implemented with rigor and discipline OKRs can provide the power of focus on what truly drives strategy execution. With clarity at the top (company-level OKRs), teams throughout the organization then have the opportunity to demonstrate their unique contribution to overall success through connected OKRs. That alignment supplies powerful ancillary benefits such as engagement and accountability.
Allan Kelly, Agile OKR Coach & OKR Author
In my book, it is the employees who set the OKRs at team level. Managers ask employees “How can you and your team help deliver this strategy?” and teams respond. Thus OKRs give employees a voice in deciding what work to do, that enrolls people in the company mission and provides a channel for them to feedback to leadership.
For the company having engaged employees is an obvious benefit. Now in the digital age those doing the work often have the best information so giving them a chance to set the objectives and feedback to leaders can only be positive.
Madeleine Silva, OKR Coach & Trainer
It depends on each company, because each company has their necessities and reasons why they choose OKRs. From my experience in helping other companies, I will say:
1. Focus: People know what to know and how it might help the team or company OKRs
2. Working oriented by a shared purpose
3. Work oriented to give outcomes, during their process team will follow up on their initiatives, some of them might work and others not, so during the process they realise the initiatives are good but more important is the outcome they received after their work.
Christina Lange, OKR Coach & Speaker
- Focus, Transparency & Alignment for companies & their employees. It wouldn’t differentiate here
- It will help you to become a more adaptable and viable organisation
- OKR is the main communication & negotiation tool between stakeholder, teams, and executives. Instead of having fluffy messages, OKRs force you to bring it on paper and if you have it visible, you should continue talking
Carsten Ley, OKR Goal-Setting Coach
- Alignment, focus, and transparency
- For the company it means you have clear accountability and tracking on all the results you would like to achieve and can communicate the main priorities to each function
- For employees it means that everybody is informed, can voice up, and have all the data and information needed. It further protects employees from new ideas and tasks which are not aligned in current OKRs. Before accepting or rejecting, they can question them against the current targets and the workload agreed at the beginning of the period
Saba Ghafari, OKR Coach & Organisational Development Professional
- OKRs help increase business resilience and alignment between different sections and departments, promoting result-oriented approach
- Correct implementation of OKRs, promotes innovative mindset among employees and since two-way conversation and transparency are very important elements in OKRS, it would increase engagement and ownership in employees as well.
Jean-Luc Koning, OKR & Systemic Coach, Founder of OkrConsulting.fr
In my opinion, the number one benefit lies in the fact that it forces you to focus on the desired outcome, the expected result, the finish line rather than the action, the doing, the means. Unfortunately, this disease of being process-oriented rather than outcome-driven invariably plagues all levels of companies, whether at the top, team, or employee level.
Countless meetings take place in the company where you have no idea what you are trying to achieve. One debates for hours about what to do and how to do it, without first focusing on the vision. Inevitably, one concludes the meeting by deciding to meet again at another one. Whereas it would have been more effective to spend most of the time describing what the full success of what you're trying to achieve would look like from the start. Then, you can trust your teams and employees to figure out how to get there.
How can you talk about the path until you have clearly defined the destination?
Catherine Chen, OKR Coach
Many companies I worked with in the past had challenges getting employees to achieve company goals, or the management felt employees did not care about company goals. There was a mismatch between their company’s goals with employees' personal goals. After they implemented OKRs correctly, they successfully created an alignment between the company’s goals and employees' personal goals.
Employees found their purpose of work and their voices were heard. When you create an engaging workplace, you attract great people who want to be a part of your organization. They'll work harder and perform better than anywhere else because now their work is meaningful. This is a tremendous benefit to companies because it improves your business results and increases your employee retention rate.
Richard Russell, OKR & Leadership Coach
Empowering employees to make decisions in real-time while maintaining alignment. This means faster decisions, which means that a company grows in capability and has more impact and hence revenue - and it means more interesting work for employees, with personal growth. OKRs give leaders and managers a framework for helping develop more leaders within their company while maintaining alignment.
Nikhil Maini, Founder & Managing Director at OKR International, Professional OKR Coach & Behaviorist
OKRs come with many benefits. For me, the first and the biggest benefit is that it helps in creating a constructive culture within teams and organisations. Many CEOs/CHROs ask me “Nikhil, should we implement OKRs once the right culture is in place?” My response is – “on the contrary”. OKRs, by virtue of their very framework, enables organisations to create a culture of transparency, collaboration, learning & innovation, achievement orientation, and an outcome mindset. Culture transformation, without a context or framework to support it, usually ends up being a dud-bullet. Ergo, companies looking at creating an agile and enabling culture can use OKRs as a conduit to achieve it.
Bart Den Haak, Consultant & OKR Author
For leaders, OKRs will help to focus and align their teams and think critically about the next steps towards their (product) strategy. More importantly, they help the company to grow and to innovate. When implementing OKRs correctly, people will get more motivated and engaged when you provide them with a clear goal. For employees, OKRs will help them to become more autonomous, enjoy their work more, bring their own ideas, get more freedom and see how their efforts will impact the bigger picture.
Paul Barker, OKR & Strategy Coach
Just one benefit? If I had to highlight one, I’d say OKRs create clarity. When helping teams to articulate Key Results, we as coaches often feel draconian, as if we are too strict in the way Key Results should be worded. But there’s a reason why they are worded as they are - it’s to create clarity. Without any argument, you should be able to look at a Key Result at the end of a cycle and judge whether it’s done or not - it is objectively verifiable. And when clarity is created, expectations start aligning, accountability becomes easier, transparency is promoted and execution accelerates.
A word of warning: Oftentimes, these “clarity conversations” are not easy. They feel like conflict. But this is where growth happens, where expectations are aligned, and where teams start working together. Imagine It’s one thing for individuals to run in different directions knowingly; the real problems occur when they run in different directions without knowing it. Don’t shy away from the 'clarity conversations'.
Kenneth Paul Lewis, Co-Founder and Director at OKR International, Angel Investor, and Leadership Coach
For the company:
- Getting everyone aligned on the most important goals for the company
- OKRs are Transparent and hence everyone knows every team within the company is fairing
- Staying agile and relevant to the ever-changing business landscape
- Unleashing the potential of the organisation towards stretched goals
- Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive OKRs (MECE), that bring more success through bottom-up alignment
- OKRs help keep strategy in focus through almost every day
- Bringing a sense of shared responsibility and increased ownership
For the employees:
- People know where to spend their energies to help drive organisational growth
- Employees can see how their contribution impacts their teams and their company, thus increasing job significance
- A medium of communication to know why goals change and what it means for them. This knowledge is more first hand and immediate
- Gives a platform for those who want to do more for the organisation in their own way
- Increase in collaboration and breaking of silos that encourage teams to work with each other, thus reducing friction, redundancies, and delays
- Awareness of not just their goals, but the reason behind why they're doing what they're doing
- Democratisation of goals, making teams, and individuals as stakeholders rather than executors
Omid Akhavan, OKR Coach at OKRs.com
Well, the usual suspects are focus, alignment, engagement, accountability, transparency, visibility, agility, cross-functional collaboration plus becoming data-driven, outcome-oriented, high-performing, etc.
On top of that, I believe going through the discussions and the critical thinking process that happen during the OKRs-setting sessions is very valuable. That is, when various leaders/managers come together from different departments/teams to discuss their most important priorities/goals and how to collaborate together to achieve them.
Last but not least, OKRs help teams and individuals clearly understand their purpose and the role they need to play to execute the company strategies.
Mike Burrows, Lean, Agile, and Kanban Pioneer
I’ve alluded already to the importance of collaboration, innovation, and self-organisation, benefits promised by process frameworks that go unrealised far too often. If that has been your organisation's experience, perhaps it is ready to recognise that it needs something deeper than the delivery process, something that works much closer to the organisation’s thinking and conversations on strategy and its own development – in fact integrating both of those with delivery.
Brad Dunn, Chief Product Officer & OKR book Author
Honestly, OKRs are the best way of documenting purpose in a team. It also helps you say no to things. At a company level, it can create alignment, but I see the biggest payoff at the team level usually, so long as the team is empowered to come up with the 'how' they get there - if they aren’t, don’t even both setting OKRs. Spend your energy on general autonomy and delegation, then work up from there.
Mark Richard, OKR Coach
Focus, simplicity, alignment, good teamwork, improved morale as obstacles are tackled.
Khalil Medina, CEO & OKR Coach
Having a good conversation about what to achieve (objective) and the expectations (KRs).