Difference between OKR and KPI

CEO’s and companies who want to implement Objective & Key Results(OKR) as goal-setting framework are often in the dilemma on how OKR is different from traditional yearly KPI/goal setting methodology. And Why they should invest in a change that comes with OKR implementation. There must be good reason for implementing OKR over KPI(Key Performance Indicators).

The similarity between them is that both are the goal-setting approach but with different purpose, starting points, and execution ownership.Here are 3 major differences in both the approaches:

PURPOSE

The purpose of OKR is to achieve and improve Alignment and Execution across the company. The purpose is to enhance the accountability. The purpose is to improve the discipline across the company for how we can grow better & probably faster.

The purpose of annual KPI’s/Goal setting is to measure the performance of the individual at the end of the year. At the start of year, KPIs are set and than are put in under the carpet. At the end of the year, dust is removed from the KPI’s and people are asked to prove themselves as how good they have performed against those KPI’s.

STARTING POINT 

The starting point for OKR is the CEO’s/business Annual Operating Priorities(AOP) and/or Strategic growth & innovation priorities.

The starting point of KPI are the Job Description of the person or should I say the role to which that person belongs to or should I say Google.

OWNERSHIP AND WAY OF EXECUTION

For OKR the execution ownership lies with the CEO or COO or Strategy Head of the company and HR.  You have to create a team who understand the business horizontally and a team which can put stretched objectives and the team that can teach people across the company how to set OKR’s which are directly aligned with company’s operational agenda and strategic priorities.

In Objective & Key Results(OKR) framework, you define WHAT needs to be achieved(Objective) and HOW you are going to measure the progress on your Objective(Key Result). The Key Results can be owned by either the Objective owners or team members of Objective owners or team members from other departments. This results in breaking silos and accelerate the execution. Further Objective and Key Results are agile in nature and are not fixed for year. They gets adjusted based on business conditions.

The ownership to set the KPI’s across the company lies with the HR. KPI’s sit in the silo without any context to an individual as how its impacting the company growth or help in achieving the operating plan. KPI approach worked when the organizations were simple, cross-functional collaboration was not that critical and bureaucracy & hierarchy was the acceptable norm. KPI’s are usually fixed for a year and remains static even if business conditions change.

Summary

  1. Purpose of OKR is alignment and execution, whereas the purpose of KPI is to measure the performance at the end of the year.
  2. CEO or people who understand the business horizontally drives OKR implementation, whereas KPI’s execution are owned by HR.
  3. The starting point of OKR is your Annual Operating Plan or your Strategic Priorities/Themes, where are input to KPI’s are your Job Descriptions.