Signs that your OKR program
isn't working

OKRs provide a clear framework that aligns teams with overarching company objectives, fosters transparency, and drives performance. However, implementing an OKR program doesn’t guarantee success. If not managed properly, the program can falter, leading to frustration and underperformance. Here are some signs that your OKR program isn’t working and what you can do to get back on track.

Misalignment and alienated teams

If you’ve ever discovered two teams to be doing the exact same task, then chances are that your teams are working in siloes. There may be limited communication and collaboration between teams, leading to double work and wasted efforts/resources.

A great way to avoid this is to make sure OKRs are never set without context. This means that OKRs are set on the executive level, and those OKRs are localized down into the next level. When a team is setting their OKRs in an OKR workshop, they should always do so with the uplevel OKRs in mind. That way, they can see exactly how they play a role in the overarching objectives, make sure they are focusing on the correct priorities, and easily identify any cross-functional dependencies.

In a world-class OKR program, if you ask someone at random what the company’s objectives and priorities are, they should be able to answer!

Two people rowing a boat in opposite directions.

Donec eu aliquam nunc. Aenean ut eleifend nulla. Curabitur consequat ipsum nulla, non finibus lacus consequat non. Fusce ut sodales dolor.

Erratic Prioritization

Sometimes, even though you’ve introduced OKRs, there still exists a gap between daily tasks and strategic outcomes. Priorities are unclear or are set without a clear rationale. One day, you’re tasked with generating more leads. The next, you’re asked to shift your focus to a product development initiative. OKRs are meant to provide clear and focused objectives that guide the efforts of teams and individuals. When prioritization is erratic, it suggests that objectives are not being clearly communicated or understood

Another cause of this can be due to teams setting too many OKRs. A team should have no more than 5 objectives, each of which consisting of 4-6 key results. Any more than that, and people will simply not know what they should focus on. This lack of focus can lead to teams spreading their efforts too thin, trying to address too many goals simultaneously without a clear sense of what is most important. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority!

Donec eu aliquam nunc. Aenean ut eleifend nulla. Curabitur consequat ipsum nulla, non finibus lacus consequat non. Fusce ut sodales dolor.

Lack of Transparency

If you struggle to gain insight across various levels of the organization, it’s quite possible that there is an issue with your OKR program’s transparency. Your OKR program should provide you with constant access to the pulse of the business. You shouldn’t have to chase down metrics and sit through extensive meetings with endless PowerPoint presentations just to figure out what is going on!

While managing OKRs in spreadsheets or a Word Doc has its merits, there is software out there, such as WorkBoard, that can streamline accessing OKR insights and eliminate manual reporting altogether.

OKR progress should be made public to the entire organization, so that everyone can see the bigger picture and can easily spot potential risks or roadblocks.

Donec eu aliquam nunc. Aenean ut eleifend nulla. Curabitur consequat ipsum nulla, non finibus lacus consequat non. Fusce ut sodales dolor.

Missing Urgency and Accountability

If you’re experiencing delays and missed opportunities because employees lack urgency, and/or aren’t aware of their exact roles, then there might be something wrong with your OKR program. Everyone should have a grasp over how the tasks they’re responsible for connect to the overarching strategy.

“Oh, was I supposed to do that? Can I just get that to you next week?”

When no one is clearly responsible for specific key results, it becomes difficult to track progress and ensure that objectives are reached. This lack of ownership can lead to:

  • Ambiguity in roles and responsibilities.
  • Decreased motivation, as employees may not feel personally accountable for outcomes.
  • Delayed decision-making and action-taking.
Connecting puzzle 2

Harness the power of OKRs

The OKR framework isn’t a magical solution that brings automatic success out-of-the-box. 

In order to avoid these common pitfalls and maximize the potential of your OKR program, you should foster a culture of open communication, agility, and continuous learning in your organization. The best way to do just that, is by implementing the five building blocks.

Relaunch your OKR program with the
five building blocks

Throughout 200+ large-scale OKR program implementations, we’ve noticed that the best OKR programs avoid the above challenges by implementing the five building blocks.

An effective OKR program should have:

  • A Strong Process
  • Thoughtful Change Managment
  • Engaging OKR Workshops
  • Robust OKR Training
  • A Dedicated Program Team & Active Community

Is your OKR program the best it can be?

The five building blocks to a successful OKR program.

We Value Our Clients And They Value Our Close Partnership

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Andrew Huxter VP Northern Europe & Growth Markets EMEA at ResMed

Wave Nine really helped us understand the “real-world” potential of OKRs and enabled us to build and embed them successfully into the commercial organization. The insights they shared in leading us through the cycle has really driven a change in how we prioritize and enabled us to establish a very productive operating rhythm.

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Jeff Rachlin VP Customer Success at Menlo

Wave Nine helped us come together as a team to create a shared set of goals, objectives, and key results. Embedding their experts into our teams has accelerated the OKR rollout throughout the organization and we have achieved greater focus and results. We really appreciate the support of Wave Nine and would recommend them to organizations looking to kick start their OKR initiatives.

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Khaldoon Al Harmi Manager – Planning & Development Strategic Planning and Evaluation at KFAS

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole Wave Nine team for their great efforts and support. You have been brilliant throughout; we couldn't have asked for more from you.

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Craig Snaguski Chief of Staff at Marvin Engineering

When we first tried implementing OKRs, we worked with another firm, but they didn’t have anywhere near the same level of engagement that Wave Nine would show. In the end, we got so much more from Wave Nine's expertise that it turned into a continuous engagement.

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Larry Sanford VP of Operations at GetSetUp

I was impressed by the Wave Nine team’s engagement from the start. They were highly responsive and they worked to understand our business. They came to serve as an extension of our company, making sure we were doing everything right as we streamlined our implementation.

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Nick Sullivan General Manager, Strategy at Kiwibank

What Kiwibank really enjoyed was that with Wave Nine, OKRs are such an intuitive system that makes you live and breathe OKRs, rather than just setting and forgetting OKRs.

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