Objective: Let’s win the Indy 500!

Classic OKR Writing Mistakes and Traps

TRAP #1: Failing to differentiate between Committed and Aspirational OKRs

Marking a Committed OKR as Aspirational increases the chance of failure. Teams may not take it seriously and may not change their other priorities to focus on delivering the OKR.

On the other hand, marking an Aspirational OKR as Committed creates defensiveness in teams who cannot find a way to deliver the OKR. It invites priority inversion as Committed OKRs are de-staffed to focus on the Aspirational OKRs.

TRAP #2: Business-As-Usual OKRs

OKRs are often written principally based on what the team believes it can achieve without changing anything they're currently doing, instead of, what the team or its customers want.

TRAP #3: Timid Aspirational OKRs

Aspirational OKRs very often start from the current state and effectively ask, "What could we do if we had extra staff and got a bit luck?" An alternative and better approach is to start with, "What could my [or my customers'] world look like in several years if we were freed from most constraints?"

By definition, you're not going to know how to achieve this state when the OKR is first formulated - that is why it is an Aspirational OKR. But without understanding and articulating the desired end-state, you guarantee that you will not be able to achieve it.

The litmus test: When you ask your customers what they want, does your Aspirational Objective meet or exceed their request?

TRAP #4: Sandbagging

A team's Committed OKRs should credibly consume most but not all of their available resources. Their Committed + Aspirational OKRs should credibly consume somewhat more than their available resources. (Otherwise, they're effectively Committed OKRs.)

Teams who can meet all of their OKRs without needing all of their team's headcount/capital are assumed to either be hoarding resources or not pushing their teams, or both. This is a cue for senior management to reassign headcount and other resources to groups who will make more effective use of them.

TRAP #5: Low-Value Objectives (aka the "Who cares?" OKR)

OKRs must promise clear business value - otherwise, there's no reason to expend resources to them. Low-Value Objectives (LVOs) are those for which, even if the Objective is completed, no one will notice or care.

Written by : kgavranovic

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