Definition of OKR Key Results – Part 2 „The Bad“

OKR erfolgreich einführen!

In the first part of the series “Definition of OKR Key Results – The good, the bad and the ugly” you will learn which “good” key results you should apply when using the procedure model Objective and Key Results.

Good Key Results are characterized by gradually measurable and changeable values, a direct influence of the team (the implementers) and the definition by the team/implementers. In addition, they should correspond to the “Shoot for the moon” paradigm and go beyond the “normal” 100% measure and ultimately have a direct connection to their value chain.

However, in the second part of “The Bad” you will find out that you can also reach beyond this and that the definition of “bad” key results is often the motivation brake when using OKR, based on 5 practical examples!

The bad

1. digital modifications – 1/0

Good key results can be gradually changed in steps. Do not choose key results that can jump “at once” from 0 to 1 without a gradation on finer levels. Otherwise there is always the risk that nothing visibly changes (for a long time), you invest a lot of work but don’t see any change or you simply run the risk of not noticing that you are working on the wrong thing. Examples of this:

  • Concept created (not / made)
  • No more bugs in Production (not / reached)
  • New landingpage released (not / released)
  • Legacy application migrated to new stack (not / migrated)

These key results are often initiatives or taks (you do something) and not measurable values for progress.

2. key results without reference to added value

We want to be successful as a company, right? To achieve this, your key results should always be linked to your value chain. Either by generating measurable added value within the chain or by minimizing waste within it.

A bad key result is, for example, the creation of a concept or the “planning” of software without an early release. No customer will spend more money with you because you have a concept or an abstract description of a software he de facto can not use!

Always make sure that more value is created by the implementation. The use of the Lean Startup principle with a fast implementation of an MVP can help even if there is no living value chain yet.

3. Strong dependencies between key results

Each objective should be measurable by a maximum of 3 key results. Make sure, however, that these parameters have no (strong) dependencies. Especially key results that are based on the principle “Key Result 1 must be reached first so that we can achieve key result 2” are critical. Objectives are often difficult to achieve here and the motivation for “Shoot for the moon” efforts disappears quickly if the “chain” does not work.

Therefore always try to choose key results that can be influenced and edited independently. Examples could be:

  • Increase the number of registrations by x percent
  • Reduction of onboarding time of new users by x minutes

4. No (traceable) reference to superordinate key results

OKR evolve a large part of their impact by ensuring that each employee has the greatest possible understanding of the contribution they make personally and their team to the “big picture”. Objectives and key results must therefore be coordinated in a cascading manner. Subordinate key results therefore always “pay in” directly into superordinate measures.

For example, you have increase of sales from X to Y as a key result at company level, it can make sense for a corresponding team to increase the size of the shopping cart from X to Y. This is why the key results must always “pay” directly into higher levels.

Therefore, pay attention if arguments regarding “pay in” are not conclusive for you or it is obvious that things are measured that are not related to your company goals.

5. Significantly too low/high target values for key results

Key results should always represent “Shoot for the moon” goals. This means that they should be so ambitious that they can only be achieved through unusual and innovative measures. However, “target” at the moon does not mean targeting at Mars but not just at the building next to it.

A good indicator for the right size, besides historical data (which you should always use), is the definition of the key results by the implementers themselves. Your colleagues know best what the right sizes are and what the shot to the moon can really be. Basic requirement: Absolute openness of the management towards the defined values and trust towards the colleagues/employees.


A significant strength in the use of OKR lies in the high level of transparency for all parties involved about objectives and the current status of their achievement, measured by key results.

If these are used incorrectly by defining digital changes (0/1), values outside the value chain or parameters that are very strongly dependent on each other the effectiveness of the OKR procedure will be gone quickly and you will achieve more demotivation rather than enthusiasm in the organisation.

A similar thing happens if key results are defined without any reference to higher goals or with completely wrong (too high or too low) expectations.

If you consider a few key points when defining key results, as described in the article “The good, the bad and the ugly – Definition of good Key Results in the OKR Framework”, OKR evolves a great motivational power and enable teams to achieve top performance.

If you are interested in finding out how to correctly formulate and use Objectives and Key Results, please contact me!

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