Looking for advice on OKRs

Hey! I’m considering OKRs and keep reading conflicting articles about how effective they are. Does anyone have experience using OKRs? Would you recommend them?

We’ve recently given up on OKRs, having used them for 3.5 years.
I’m writing a much longer post detailing why, but here’s the abridged summary of what worked for us and what didn’t.

Like many companies we never bothered with cascading Objectives to individuals.

We liked:

  • The clear cascade of objectives. OKRs force you to think about how every project contributes to the company objectives.
  • The discipline of writing and sharing our goals.
  • The cadence of meeting and reviewing our goals every 3 months.

Our biggest struggles were with setting good KRs and with the scoring mechanism.

  • We didn’t like the way KRs blur tasks with outcomes (this is a good post on the subject: https://www.staceybarr.com/measure-up/why-okrs-do-not-help-us-measure-what-matters/).
  • We found often we wouldn’t be able to score a project until after it had finished, because of the delay needed to get the data.
  • Not all projects fit neatly into the same schedule. If everything needed to be scored after 3 months that limited what we could set as a KR.
  • We spent a lot of time deliberating at what level to set the OKRs for teams. Should they be very loose in remit (our preference) or tighter.
  • Mapping a metric to a score on a scale often felt arbitrary. Everyone now knows a 10 is aspirational so it loses some of its power.
  • We found if a team scored poorly they found it every demotivating and became disengaged with the framework. We didn’t like how OKRs don’t separate good execution from good outcome. If a team’s working on something risky you want to track how well they did on the task and whether the task had the impact intended. Not badge the whole thing a failure.

Finally, whenever you follow a framework you can fall into the trap of trying to interpret what the framework says you should do rather than just following common sense.

What we’ve moved to isn’t a million miles away in spirit from OKRs, but we’ve dumped the baggage the name brings.