Experts recommend 40+ questions you should ask before starting your OKR journey

Experts recommend 40+ questions you should ask before starting your OKR journey

OKRs can be daunting. For many, the first question at the beginning of their OKR journey is "how do I start". To help those new to OKRs, or still in the infancy of their rollout, we asked our group of OKR experts to list the key questions everyone should ask themselves before setting off on their OKR voyage.

A collated list of the 40+ questions is at the bottom of the blog!

Cansel Sorgens, Business Coach, OKR Coach & Trainer

  • The very first questions to ask are "Why OKRs?”, "What problems do we want to solve with OKR?”, "Why do we think OKR will help us?”, “How do we know if OKR is helping us?
  • After that, ask yourself the question if you’re willing to invest time & effort in the long run for implementing OKR, because it will take time and it’s not easy 
  • And lastly, ask yourself what your first steps should be to introduce OKRs into the organisation without overwhelming it

Christina Wodtke, Radical Focus Author, OKR Expert, Consultant & Stanford Lecturer

  • Do I have a clear strategy?
  • Have I created a culture in which psychological safety pictures on every team level?
  • Am I keeping toxic managers around who destroy our ability to achieve amazing things?
  • Do we have a mature product management process?
  • Am I ready to let go of telling my employees what to do and tell them what results I want to see?
  • Are my teams working in a customer-centric fashion, where they are getting all the data they need to make decisions about the direction of the company?
  • Is my executive team actually a team or are they a bunch of individuals doing whatever they feel like?
  • Am I good at hiring the best people I can?
  • Do my managers know how the people manage?
  • Do I trust the people I hire?

    These are all problems I've run into while working over the many years I've been consulting clients on implementing OKRs. Sometimes I think that OKRs are a diagnostic that tells you what's wrong with your company.

Mukom Tamon, Chief Excellence Officer™️ Academy, OKRs, 4DX & Lean Six Sigma expert (@perfexcellent)

  • Do we have a good strategic plan that everyone understands?
  • Does every manager and staff understand our business model?
  • Which business units are good candidates for OKRs? Which ones are OKRs not a good fit for and why?

Paul Niven, Global OKR Coach & OKR Author

The most important question is: Why do we want to implement OKRs? What are our unique and specific reasons? The answer should never be “Because I read Measure What Matters and it just makes sense.” Or, “Because Google does it.” What is the business problem you’re attempting to solve and how, specifically, will OKRs help you overcome your challenge? When you can convincingly answer that question, you’re ready to launch OKRs. 

Monica Batsleer, Senior Partner of OKR Matrix

  • Is the business culture of the organisation ready to absorb a new management model?
  • Is the organisation ready to change the business strategical model to answer the outside challenges?
  • Do you have the right competencies and people to multiply the OKRs throughout the company?

Allan Kelly, Agile OKR Coach & OKR Author

  • Which is more important to us: predictability or ambition? - if predictability is key, then maybe OKRs aren’t for you
  • What practices and processes are we going to drop when we adopt OKRs? - simply adding more processes without taking others away will reduce productive time. Ideally, OKR adoption is an opportunity to drop a raft of processes and reform others
  • What can we, as leaders of the company do, to help our teams succeed with OKRs? - I sometimes imagine leadership teams having one objective themselves: help teams succeed

Madeleine Silva, OKR Coach & Trainer

Questions can help them to know if they want to start working with OKRs:

  • Why do I want to deploy this framework?
  • Which problem do I try to resolve?
  • Why is OKR the best framework for us?

Christina Lange, OKR Coach & Speaker

  • Do we have a true management buy-in? The c-level should be clear that they are not only initiating the change, they should role model it
  • Have we done our homework, like purpose, vision, mission & strategy? 
  • Is there a small part of the company that's eager to try it out and be the blueprint? 
  • Are we to give people the space to learn more about OKRs? 
  • Are we willing to accept that the first OKRs cycles can fail? 
  • What are the messages that we need to communicate and to inspire our people?

Carsten Ley, OKR Goal-Setting Coach

  • Are you willing to share your company objectives and success data with the entire company and listen to bottom-up feedback regarding target feasibility from your teams?
  • Do you have an educated workforce who would like to ideate and influence their own results in the company? 
  • Is your middle management open to share and give away power to teams?
  • Are you ready to decouple goal achievement from performance management?

Saba Ghafari, OKR Coach & Organisational Development Professional

  • Is OKRS the right method we are looking for? If transparency is forbidden, hierarchy is very important and must be considered, methods of achieving results are as important as the results, then think twice before implementing OKRs
  • Are we ready to have OKRs at all levels?
  • Are we ready to listen to everyone involved?
  • Are we agile?
  • How do we respond to change?
  • Are we result-oriented?

Richard Russell, OKR & Leadership Coach

Why are we doing OKRs - specifically what benefits are we looking for,  and what are we willing to do to get these benefits (beyond just adopting OKRs). Without this clear motivation, it’s hard to create the change necessary to realise the benefits - because most of the benefits come from different approaches to leading people, which are structured around OKRs, rather than from merely writing OKRs alone.

Bart Den Haak, Consultant & OKR Author

  • Why OKRs, why now? Answers like improving alignment and focus are not valid!

Paul Barker, OKR & Strategy Coach

  • There are a few questions we ask during the deployment phase. (See Ben Lamorte’s OKRs Field Book for more on the deployment parameters.) These questions are critically important during deployment - why do you want to use OKRs? How will you score Key Results? Are OKRs linked to performance reviews? 
  • Every company is unique in its implementation of OKRs. Asking the right questions before you start is crucial in creating alignment between the different stakeholders involved during deployment. 
  • Instead of recreating what Ben has already spent years on refining, we highlight two areas to address while thinking about OKRs:
  • Does your company culture support outcomes-based management? OKRs is an outcomes-based goal management methodology - if two parties can agree on an outcome, they don’t have to define outputs and tasks to complete. It’s a distributed leadership model and increases scalability and speed of execution. However, it’s built on a foundation of trust, which comes down to company culture. 
  • Is there buy-in from the top? To gain the full benefit of the methodology, your OKRs should align to the strategy, which should align to the ambition and the purpose of an organisation. This in itself should be enough reasoning to ensure executive buy-in. Secondly, the methodology is extremely adaptable - from links to remuneration to expected performance on OKRs, all these features are negotiable. Gain buy-in from the top (even if it’s the top of a division as opposed to the organisation) to drive consistency in implementation. 

Kenneth Paul Lewis, Co-Founder, and Director at OKR International, Angel Investor, and Leadership Coach

  • What organisational strategies do they wish to achieve in the short term and long term?
  • What are the derailers for these strategies?
  • How much do they trust their teams and individuals to show up and contribute towards stretched goals?
  • What is the strength of their organisation’s leadership to navigate and coach teams
  • To describe their ability to develop a learner’s mindset versus having a fixed mindset
  • The willingness of organisation’s leaders to let go of power and control structures and systems and move to a more democratic, autonomous, and continuous goal management framework?
  • Do they have the patience to make OKRs work and their ability to experiment and  learn from failure?

Mike Burrows, Lean, Agile, and Kanban Pioneer

  • Are we ready for teams to do more of their own thinking?
  • How do we see that aligning with ours?
  • How do we see those conversations working?

Brad Dunn, Chief Product Officer & OKR book Author

  • What is the number 1 priority for your business? If you can’t get past that, you still have work to do.

Mark Richard, OKR Coach

  • Why do you think you need them?
  • Are you really prepared for the necessary hard work before seeing the benefits?

Khalil Medina, CEO & OKR Coach

  • Do we have the right product/service in the right market?
  • Do we have the right team?
  • Do we want to achieve more?

Collated OKR Questions

A complete list of questions to cover before your OKR journey is listed below (in no particular order):

  1. Why OKRs?
  2. Why now?
  3. Do we have a clear strategy? 
  4. Are we ready to let go of telling our employees what to do? 
  5. Are our teams working in a customer-centric fashion, where they are getting all the data they need to make decisions about the direction of the company? 
  6. Are we promoting psychological safety? 
  7. Are we good at hiring the best people we can? 
  8. What problems do we want to solve with OKRs?
  9. Are we willing to invest time & effort in the long run to implement OKRs, because it will take time and it’s not easy?
  10. How will we introduce OKR into the organisation without overwhelming it?
  11. Do we have a good strategic plan that everyone understands?
  12. Does every manager and member of staff understand our business model?
  13. Which of our business units are good candidates for OKRs? 
  14. Which is more important to us: predictability or ambition? (If predictability is key then maybe OKRs aren’t for you!)
  15. What practices and processes are we going to drop when we adopt OKRs? 
  16. What can we, as leaders of the company do, to help our teams succeed with OKRs?
  17. Have we done our homework? Do we know our purpose, vision, mission & strategy? 
  18. Is there a small part of our company that's eager to try it out and be the blueprint? 
  19. Are we willing to accept that the first OKRs cycles can fail? 
  20. What are the messages that we need to communicate and to inspire our people? 
  21. Are we willing to share our company objectives and success data with the entire company and listen to bottom-up feedback regarding target feasibility from our teams?
  22. Do we have an educated workforce who would like to ideate and influence their own results in the company? 
  23. Is our middle management open to share and give away power to teams?
  24. Are we ready to decouple goal achievement from performance management?
  25. Are we ready to have OKRs at all levels?
  26. Are we ready to listen to everyone involved?
  27. How do we respond to change?
  28. Are we result-oriented? 
  29. How will we score Key Results? 
  30. Will we link our OKRs to performance reviews? (Spoiler - Often not advised) 
  31. Does our company culture support outcomes-based management?
  32. Is there buy-in from the top?
  33. What organisational strategies do we want to achieve in the short-term and long-term?
  34. What are the 'derailers' for our strategies?
  35. How much do we trust our teams and individuals to show up and contribute towards stretched goals?
  36. What is the strength of their organisation’s leadership to navigate and coach teams?
  37. Can we move to a more democratic, autonomous, and continuous goal management framework?
  38. What is the number 1 priority for our business? (If you can’t get past that, you still have work to do)
  39. Are we really prepared for the necessary hard work before seeing the benefits?
  40. Do we have the right product/service in the right market?
  41. Do we have the right team?
  42. Do we want to achieve more?
  43. Is our organisation ready to change the business strategical model to answer the outside challenges?

if you missed our previous uploads, find all of our expert-led OKR series here.

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