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Why individual OKRs don’t work for us

In 2013, we decided to ditch our employee OKRs*.

Don’t get us wrong. We are into objectives and priorities and data and making sure everyone is moving in the same direction just as much as the next tech company is. But there were three main reasons why OKRs on an individual level were not doing all that for us:

Individual OKRs slowed us down without adding value

OKRs work well on a corporate level, they are great for visualizing common objectives and outcomes and getting everyone moving in the same direction. But our corporate level is very nimble, it has to be. So our objectives change fast and adapting iterated OKRs on multiple levels all the way to the individual consumed time and energy that we just couldn’t afford that often. And for no good reason. Because as it turned out the smartest objectives, the ones that made the most sense on the individual level, didn’t really change with the direction our common priorities took each month. So in the end, the OKR process all the way down to individual level became superfluous.

OKRs are about the how. Our focus is on the why.

We are in hyper growth and our business moves at breakneck speed. In this environment, we have found that the why is so much more important than the how. And we need to keep things very simple. So we focus on setting priorities, making sure that everyone understands where we are going and why. Based on that, our teams and individuals handle the how themselves. And they are very good at that.

Shit in, shit out

With the speed we run at, the foundation you need in place for setting good OKRs just keeps changing and lagging for. What went into the OKR process was often already outdated when we got that far. So the OKRs that came out were too.

We noticed that we were putting energy into a process that wasn’t adding value. So we decided to ditch it and focus on context and priorities instead. We make sure everyone knows exactly where we are going and what the current priorities are, and then we let the teams take responsibility for how to get there.

Individuals’ objectives are set to make sense independent of the changes in direction our business takes. This way our individuals can focus on making the business work, instead of on making the OKR process work.

* OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. It is a method of defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. Its main goal is to connect company, team and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move together in the right direction. It requires goal setting and follow-up on corporate, department, team and individual level. 

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