Using OKR Methods To Lift Business Performance

As 2022 draws to a close, most organizations are deeply involved in planning, budgeting and forecasting for the coming year. To complete this rigorous process, leaders often invest significant time, attention and energy for weeks or even months. Yet research says more than 90% of those strategies will never be executed. How can you develop an operational plan you’ll actually use?

Today’s uncertain economic environment is prompting leaders to seek out more flexible, reliable planning tools. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. For decades, some organizations have relied on highly effective, affordable practices and tools based on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

Understanding OKRs

The OKR framework is favored by fast-growing tech giants like Google, LinkedIn, and Spotify, as well as start-ups that hope to follow in their footsteps.

OKRs are a way of setting strategic goals, first at the company level. Then departments, teams and individuals align their goals with the organization in a systematic way. But this framework is much more than a simple goal format. It comes with multiple step-by-step execution best practices.

For example, consider the “check-in” step, which is usually conducted on a weekly basis. This lightweight update process keeps everyone on your team focused, informed and on-track throughout an OKR cycle. Regular check-ins also help leaders avoid becoming consumed in reactive firefighting, which is often why strategies never see daylight.

Specialized software can help make steps like check-ins faster and easier to manage. For example, with OKR tools like ZOKRI, the check-in process takes only minutes to complete.

Unlocking The Full Benefits of OKR

OKR Snakes and Ladders - Best Practices and Mistakes to AvoidThe OKR process seems simple enough. However, making the most of OKRs requires nuance. Understanding how to navigate these nuances can help you quickly move from an OKR novice to a highly skilled OKR-driven organization.

Some important nuances are outlined below and are illustrated in this OKR “Snakes and Ladders” infographic:

7 OKR Ladders (Top Tips)

To help you succeed at OKRs, here are 7 top tips from organizations that have relied on them for years to drive performance and growth:

  • Use OKR as a focal point for debating issues and opportunities that, if solved, can move the needle. You could also consider them a blueprint for team “therapy” that creates engagement and excitement.
  • Identify meaningful, measurable outcomes (“key results”) to be sure you define success effectively. Discourage vanity metrics and “to-do list” outcomes.
  • Use KPIs to measure business-as-usual performance. Reserve OKRs for more valuable performance metrics, focused on strategic initiatives.
  • Establish aspirational goals selectively to improve focus and unlock innovative ways of thinking. OKRs let you set stretch goals without creating unnecessary stress among stakeholders.
  • Keep in mind that OKRs do not have to follow your organization chart. For example, they can be used effectively with cross-functional team initiatives.
  • Use operational processes built into OKRs to ensure that information is flowing as needed and your organization develops an executional rhythm.
  • Leverage retrospectives at the end of OKR cycles by creating positive shared learning experiences that inform future plans.

7 OKR Snakes (Pitfalls)

Perhaps the greatest strength of the OKR framework is its popularity. The biggest obstacles and mistakes have already been solved many times before, so common issues like these are easy to spot and avoid:

  • Sometimes, executive teams are not prepared to lead by example. Instead, they expect others to set and update goals, but they don’t manage their own. You don’t want to be one of these leaders.
  • Goals assigned to you aren’t as effective as goals you help create. To unlock stronger performance gains, get more people involved in the process. Discover together what needs improvement and support others in achieving their goals.
  • Similarly, avoid developing team OKRs in a silo. Team OKRs are much more powerful when they’re the product of cross-team discussions.
  • Too many team or individual OKRs dilute your focus. Instead, set fewer goals, each with high potential business impact.
  • Don’t treat OKR steps as optional actions. Without mandatory check-ins, you lose a single point-of-truth and people stop taking reports and updates seriously.
  • When the risks and consequences of not achieving OKRs are perceived as high you might be tempted to low-ball, but that can undermine the process. Grading OKRs and retrospectives helps you avoid this issue.
  • Setting and forgetting OKRs opens the door for business-as-usual firefighting to take over your agenda. Clearly, this jeopardizes overall performance outcomes. It’s important to commit to the OKR cycle and not skip updates or OKR meetings.


OKR is a proven goal setting framework. It can help you structure, share and execute organizational strategy, while making it easy for individuals and teams to support those goals.

Businesses that rely on OKRs typically are high-performers with traditional organization charts and cross-functional teams. But as everyone works toward aligned goals, people are more likely to identify and solve problems. And they learn from each other faster than those without OKRs.

Adopting OKRs is more than adopting a new goal format. It means you’re embracing a new way of talking about challenges and opportunities, and tracking progress towards goals and learning from experience. The know-how and tools to implement OKRs are within reach – even for organizations with a limited budget and management resources.

Need a Confidence Boost? Try this Simple Trick.

Even the most self-confident people are not immune to moments of uncertainty, but if you feel like you’ve been facing a crisis of confidence in a specific area of your life, the solution might be simpler than you think.

According to research published by Harvard Business Review, the best way to boost your confidence, while also keeping motivation levels high and staying productive, is to set yourself up for smaller wins as you progress towards a larger goal.

Small achievements can boost confidence and motivation.

We all have at least a few long-term goals, whether at work or in our personal lives, so most of us are all too familiar with the apathy that inevitably sets in after the initial excitement of tackling a new challenge wears off.

But research led by Teresa Amabile, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and Steven J. Kramer, an independent researcher, writer and consultant, has found that celebrating smaller milestones can put us in the right frame of mind to succeed.

While analyzing more than 230 work diaries, they noticed that on days when workers had made some form of progress, either individually or as a team, they reported being in a more upbeat mood and also said they felt more intrinsically motivated. On days when they had faced some setback at work, however, they reported experiencing more frustration, sadness and fear.

People’s perceptions of work also changed depending on whether they made progress or not. When they felt they’d accomplished something, they perceived more positive challenge in their work and saw their team members and supervisors as more mutually supportive. But when they’d experienced a setback, they felt exactly the opposite way.

Amabile and Kramer dubbed this “the progress principle,” and it doesn’t just apply to big achievements; they found that even relatively minor breakthroughs, such as figuring out why something wasn’t working, helped to boost motivation and left workers feeling more confident, happy and productive.

Take time to recognize your achievements.

The important thing is to recognize all the little milestones and meaningful steps you take along the way to ensure that your progress doesn’t go unnoticed. With this in mind, here are a few ideas for tracking your progress and celebrating smaller milestones as you move toward your goals.

  • Set daily goals

If you want to keep track of your progress, it’s a good idea to break your big goals up into smaller daily goals. Having a clear overview of the smaller steps you’ll need to take every day will help your final goal seem more achievable.

  • Keep a progress diary

Keep a progress diary that you update at the end of each day with details of your smaller achievements and the progress you’ve made as well as what you’d like to do better the next time around. At the end of the week, you’ll be able read back on everything you accomplished and start your new week in the right frame of mind.

  • Use an app to track goals

There are a number of great apps that can help you get things lined up and track each step along the way. For instance iDoneThis sends you an email at the end of each day so you can see what you’ve accomplished, while LifeTick lets you create a list of tasks you’ll need to accomplish to reach your goals and then check off each achievement as you work your way through the list.

  • Reward yourself for smaller achievements

Research shows that when the payoff for our actions is immediate, we’re more likely to stick with our resolutions. So, for example, if you follow through with your daily target, you can reward yourself immediately with something you enjoy, such as a short break from work.

Image : BigStock

Risking Failure, Winning Big With Career Change

“Nobody succeeds in a big way, except by risking failure.”  William Feather

At a recent meeting of the National Speakers Association, I had the opportunity to meet Simon T. Bailey, a professional speaker and author whose topic is personal brilliance. Simon has been speaking for more than ten years and is extremely successful. Although his skill as a speaker is impressive, learning how he got started in the speaking business was more notable.

Simon was a high-level executive in several major corporations, including the Disney Institute. When he decided to pursue a speaking career, he left the Disney organization, cashed in his stock and began the journey. Now mind you, his wife was a stay-at-home mom with two young children and Simon had no Plan “B.” Failure was not an option.

Simon risked everything because of his faith in his abilities and his passion to do what he loves to do. As a result of his commitment, he has achieved extraordinary success. What about you?

Ask yourself the question, “If I had all the money and time in the world, what would I do?” If your answer to this question and your current life situation are on different planets, you may want to rethink what you’re doing now. We all have choices in life. Some people feel that even if they are absolutely miserable, they have to stay in their present job because of the security of a regular paycheck and health benefits. You may be saying, “You don’t understand. I have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay; I can’t just walk away from all that.”

Yes, you can. The reality is that it’s not that you CAN’T walk away; it’s that you WON’T walk away. You have a choice. In order to get more out of life, you may have to risk more.

It’s been said that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” When you take this to the next level you’ll find that, “If you want to have what others don’t, you have to do what others won’t.” (Note: I was going to write that you shouldn’t do anything CRAZY to put yourself at risk, but there is always someone that’s going to feel that whatever you’re doing is crazy, so go ahead and take your risks.) We need to have such passion for what we want that nothing can hold us back from going for it. The best idea is to follow your heart.

Learning how to follow your heart is best accomplished by taking time in quiet meditation and mindfulness to contemplate our highest and best life. How do you that? Start by sitting quietly and listening to your breath. When thoughts start to permeate your mind about the laundry list of things you need to do, simply release the thought and go back to your breathing.

What risks are you currently taking to move toward your dreams and goals? What additional risks should you take? The chances don’t have to be big and scary. Start with small gambles; experience the thrill of victory and then go for slightly larger stakes. Your success will be that much sweeter when you get over your fear and just do it. (Thanks, Nike!)

P.S. — Believe me, you’ll always be more disappointed with the things you DIDN’T do, than those things you did.


As Founder of Grategy, Lisa Ryan works with organizations to create stronger employee and customer engagement, retention and satisfaction. Her proven gratitude strategies (Grategies) lead to increased productivity, passion and profits. She is the author of seven books, and co-stars in two documentaries: the award-winning “The Keeper of the Keys,” and “The Gratitude Experiment.” To learn more, visit


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