OKRs — Common Mistakes

Chris Norris
2 min readJan 29, 2021

I’ve been asked a couple of times in the last week for advice on OKRs. I don’t consider myself to have mastered them but have seen some common problems over the years.

  • OKRs should bring focus and alignment about what really matters — don’t specify too many Os or KRs. Make the hard decisions about what really matters for the next OKR period so the teams have the best chance to make an impact on them.
  • OKRs are not a roadmap/tactical tool — they are a tool for prioritization and alignment. They don’t replace creating roadmaps, identifying dependencies and project-managing specific deliverables
  • It takes several cycles of setting and reviewing OKRs to get good at it
  • Everyone should talk about OKRs and progress (or lack of progress) in all major forums (team meetings, all-hands, etc.) if you want people to internalize that they are important
  • KRs should be measurable — it should be really clear to everyone whether the Result has been achieved
  • Measure and publicize progress against the KRs regularly — certainly weekly if not more often. Don’t just review them at the end of the OKR period!
  • The Objectives can be long-term and ambitious but I’ve found that KRs need to be achievable or slight stretch goals to keep the teams motivated and feel like they can hit them. It is IMO, demotivating to be set a KR that is unattainable (see last blog post on the problems with Stretch Goals)
  • Leaders should set the ‘O’s, and setting the ‘KR’s should be collaborative where possible
  • Don’t drive OKR-setting too deep into your organization and certainly not down to the individual level — if it makes sense for a ‘team’ to adopt the ‘department’ OKRs directly, then do so
  • If, after starting execution with a set of OKRs, you find that an Objective or KR is no longer relevant then change them! You don’t have to wait for the next cycle and lose the opportunity to work towards the correct goal
  • During the finalization of OKRs the leaders should review and ensure that the OKRs for each department really DO truly roll-up to the upper-level OKRs and are not just a laundry-list of ‘things to do’



Chris Norris

Engineering leader for startups — 4 exits and counting. Fascinated with startups, software, and the people around them. Founder at startupfractionalcto.com