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Anti-patterns when running the OKR cycle - Part 2

This article discusses anti-patterns that can occur when running the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) cycle. It examines the following common mistakes made in the process. It also suggests best practices for avoiding these mistakes and for making the OKR cycle as effective as possible.


  1. Lack of context - people don’t understand why the goal is important

  2. One tool to solve all our problems

  3. OKR fulfillment is connected to performance evaluation and compensation

  4. Lack of unified language

  5. Not following through with the change


1. Lack of context - people don’t understand why the goal is important

Lack of context can make it difficult for people to understand updates and decisions. To truly understand what's going on, it's important to provide context about the goal and the reasoning behind it. This way, people can effectively challenge ideas and decisions. The best way to set up OKRs is through collaboration that involves both top-level managers and front-line employees.


Example of describing the context

Say the goal or objective is to boost revenue. Despite demands from potential customers, we have decided to delay the development of a new feature. Our decision is based on the fact that many current customers are leaving due to performance problems and bugs. To improve customer satisfaction and retain current customers, we believe that fixing the underlying issues in the system will yield a higher return on investment than adding new features to an unsatisfactory system.



2. One tool to solve all our problems

The OKR framework focuses on defining desired outcomes and determining the actions needed to achieve them. A strong OKR tool is crucial to success, as it facilitates discussions and decision-making by providing clear visibility into progress and direction. However, a tool alone is not enough to address misalignment within an organization. Effective communication, ongoing follow-up, and continuous learning are essential components in promoting alignment. To achieve success with OKRs, both a robust tool and a deep understanding of how to use it are necessary.

"a tool alone is not enough"

3. OKR fulfillment is connected to performance evaluation and compensation

Linking employee pay to meeting OKR goals can hinder the company's overall success. This is because workers may focus more on their own performance and less on the overall success of the company.

What gets measured gets done

4. Lack of unified language

Having a common language is important for teamwork between different departments. It's better to focus on the desired result (outcome) before discussing specific tasks or product features. If employees are focused on individual tasks, they may lose sight of the bigger picture and the desired outcome.

Using the language of outcomes when communicating with customers is also more effective. Instead of just selling a product, it's better to sell the desired result that the product can provide. For example, instead of just saying "we have a calendar app," it's better to say "our service helps you never miss an important appointment." This way, you can get more valuable feedback from the customer.

Talking about outcomes will get you more valuable feedback from the customer

5. Not following through with the change

Not following through with changes can lead to frustration among employees. If they don't understand the differences between the old and new ways of working, and if leaders don't embody the new approach, employees may feel like changes are happening without any real purpose. This can lead to a feeling of disconnection and make it harder to implement meaningful change in the future.

People follow what you do, not what you say

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I hope this article was valuable for you and it sparked relevant questions.

For more insights, please see the recording from our webinar on OKR anti patterns:










Gustav Nygren





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