Why OKRs?


Why are OKRs such a powerful tool for helping companies reach their goals? An ancient parable helps us understand how vision and purpose can change the way we work.

The brick layer parable

In this story, while all three bricklayers are technically doing the same "job," the third bricklayer has three characteristics that set him apart, and are instructive when thinking about OKRs:  

  • Focus - he knows exactly what is expected of him.
  • Purpose - he's connected to the mission and vision of the project.
  • Alignment - he understands how his work contributes to the end result.

While this parable is hundreds of years old, companies today have a similar goal: align purpose-driven teams to achieve results.

Modern organizational challenges

OKRs help organizations solve many problems, including ones that are newly emerging. Organizations today face several challenges:

  • The pace of business is faster. We live in a collaborative, distributed, cloud-based world where critical business decisions must be made quickly.  
  • Industries are being disrupted. New customer behaviors, aggressive competition, and rapidly evolving technology are changing market dynamics.
  • Values around work are changing. Modern employees are seeking companies with purpose, meaning, transparency, and who value employee input around key decisions.
  • The workforce is global. Collaboration, networking, meetings, and teams now cross geographic, language, time zones and cultural lines.

Fortunately, OKRs help address these issues, and provide a modern business framework for high-performance.

OKR benefits

In his book Measure What Matters, John Doerr developed the "Five Superpowers," which highlight the benefits that OKRs bring to employees and organizations as they navigate the challenges mentioned in the section above.

  • Focus helps teams focus on impact rather than output and empowers employees to focus on the work that matters to the business. As people gain clarity around the "Why" of their work, they experience less burnout and help move the business forward more effectively.
  • Alignment connects individuals, teams, and departments to the company's broader strategy, which helps work get prioritized correctly and gives employees a sense of how their individual work contributes to the company as a whole.
  • Adaptability enables data-driven decisions and measurable outcomes.
  • Transparency allows all employees to see goals publicly, which enforces accountability and improves collaboration. This also increases the possibility for employee input and fosters trust between employees and leadership.
  • Growth creates the possibility for exponential growth by encouraging people to set goals that are difficult to reach.

OKRs enable companies to collaborate and pivot in today's fast-paced environment where industries and technologies change rapidly. OKRs make the purpose within work explicit to employees, so people know that the work they do matters. The intentionality and framework behind OKRs creates the possibility for strategic alignment and increased success, even when teams are disparate or remote.