Is your OKR process burning out your people?

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In the beginning of December, I received a flurry of calls from HR managers asking what I knew about OKRs. Every single one worked at a company that was using the OKR goal setting framework, and none had seen the results they’d hoped for.

This is something I hear frequently. Many organizations have adopted the OKR framework, expecting it to be a silver bullet that results in achieving their organization’s ‘moonshot’ goals in record time.

But the reality is that using OKRs to drive how work gets done can actually sabotage the productivity of teams if not implemented well. This framework requires a set of skills that not all leaders are equipped with. And yet, too often companies introduce and enforce an OKR policy without preparing their leaders with the abilities to set and attain ambitious OKRs.

Without first investing in the coaching capabilities of their leaders, thinking through how OKRs factor into the overall performance of the organization, and accounting for the iterative nature of knowledge work, companies are setting their people up for a miserable experience.  

And that’s exactly what I heard from the managers who reached out to me last month. They were hoping someone could help their managers learn how to lead an OKR process that actually resulted in achieving goals without burning out their people.

Our approach to OKRs is based on goal science research, which calls for placing as much emphasis on learning and improving as there is on accomplishing specific results.

Ultimately, the only way to achieve the objectives we want is to iterate our way there. We need to get crystal clear on the indicators of progress towards our objectives and key results, and continuously learn what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do better.

By focusing on the indicators instead of the results, we may even surpass our initial targets - which is what we need to get ahead in today’s environment. In short, we need a more agile approach to OKRs.

We developed an OKR training program to address this specific need. The OKRs Done Right program by Epic Teams is a four-step, agile process that addresses the common pitfalls of the OKR framework.

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If you are considering adopting an OKR policy in your company, or have managers who need training in them, I’d love to set up a call to talk about how I can best serve your needs.

You can learn about our program here.