We are late with our OKRs! Now what?!

Posted by Ivan Osmak
on February 2, 2018

A lot of organizations say that they have a problem with always being late with setting their OKRs. For example, it’s January 15th and they still haven’t set the OKRs.

What typically follows is the sense of failure, guilt, and frustration.

Why are organizations late with OKRs?

In my experience, the most common reason, why a team or company would be late with OKRs, is that they want them to be “perfect”.

There is this notion of everything needed to be planned, set, aligned on the 1st of day of the quarter.

The simple reality is that this is not possible and for a myriad of reasons:

  • Many OKRs will depend on the company or department OKRs; if there is delay with those, others will be delayed as well
  • Some people were wrapping up the last quarter and did not have time to set the OKRs for next quarter
  • Some people simply won’t be in the office (think January 1st of any year)
  • Some OKRs will have to be talked through with several people, sometimes across different functions
  • And so on…

So to recap: waiting for OKRs to be “perfect” and then having a company-wide launch is a sure way to be late and be late a lot.

Simple solution to never be late with OKRs again

The simplest way to solve this problem is not to “launch OKRs officially“.

If your OKRs period starts on the 1st of the quarter then that’s when they start – even if you have only one single objective. Use the OKRs retrospective meetings to flesh out other OKRs.

OKRs are meant to bring agility to the organization, so why be rigid with the process itself?

Also, keep in mind that when you set a quarterly objective it does not mean it should take you a whole quarter to accomplish it; it means that you should accomplish it within that quarter. So, no need to panic if you are a week late. Just do it.

The illusion of perfect

The last thought I want to leave you with is the futility of trying to plan and predict 3 months ahead for an entire organization. Even if all of your OKRs are set and aligned on day 1, chances are they will change. Some will be added, some removed.

As Mike Tyson put it so eloquently:

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson