*”You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation.” ~ Homer Rice*
**Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)** have been well known for decades now, and John Doerr’s book on Measuring What Matters became a hit immediately after it was published. However, while OKRs as a concept seems logical and straightforward, many companies struggle with implementing this concept in an aligned and inspirational way. As an Agile coach implementing OKRs in multiple large organizations, I experience five major anti-patterns:
* **OKRs are implemented top-down**. OKRs are not KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)** which are top-down arbitrary numbers provided by management to each employee at the beginning of a long-term period (usually a year). OKRs are set by teams, not individuals, and aligned with organizational objectives. In that, OKRs are inspirational and encourage teams to set up the objectives that motivate them and inspire self-organizing teams to make a difference.
* **OKRs are used to measure performance and define compensation** . Unlike KPIs which are used to measure performance and this influences compensation and promotions, OKRs are not related to performance in any way. Numbers are easy to game, and connecting OKRs to performance would negate the purpose of those. OKRs need to be aspirational and hard to achieve, and by doing that, the teams challenge them to continuously grow and become high-performing. This is the reason OKRs are self-graded, not measured by the managers.
* **OKRs are focused on activities, not results**. Frequently, OKRs are focused on activities or tasks, e.g. provide 100 training sessions, hire 300 employees, create a Playbook covering 50 topics. While sometimes there is a reason for task-based key results, in most cases, the objective is either customer-related (e.g. customer satisfaction), business objective (e.g. revenue growth), employee-related (e.g. retention data), or a related goal. In either case, it forces teams to pivot if the initial set of activities does not bring the intended result and fail forward to pursue the goal. [OKR example] (https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1Tjtf8Qh4x2BOfFflXUVS6J-KqLB1sABNMidYIBxDi6c/edit?usp=sharing)
* **OKRs need to be measured by managers**. OKRs are self-graded by the team that committed to those. Pre-grading is a helpful technique which allows setting quantifiable success criteria from 0 (not started) to 1 (challenging but possible).
* **OKRs are assessed at the end of the period for which they are set**. OKRs are reviewed at frequent intervals (usually monthly for quarterly or annual OKRs), and it is important to keep in mind that the value of those sessions is not in grades but in alignment and collaboration discussions and outcomes.
During the workshop, we will be playing several **OKR-setting games**. The goal of these games is to experience in practice how to avoid common mistakes and set up cascading OKRs bottom-up by empowering teams, aligning divisions, and keeping the organizational objectives in focus – all of this while keeping employees motivated and inspired. Finally, we will discuss OKR implementation and review examples of how OKRs empower teams to self-organize while achieving shared goals within a scaled agile environment.
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