Insights are often unveiled in casual conversations we have with clients, colleagues or friends – a point in time where both parties realise this is important stuff, and most people are struggling with it. These insights don’t wait for formal engagements – they happen over coffees and on couches. Our ‘couch coffees’ is a continuing series of posts where we’ll publish some of these insights – simple, short and sharp. They might be second nature to some; for others, they might be closer to epiphanies. For most, we hope they’re simply nudges in the right direction.

In a recent Q&A session with a client that took place a few weeks before the end of the OKR cycle, they asked what should be done when teams realise that their Key Results were not achievable. There were various reasons why this was the case, ranging from late input from a senior team member on realistic timelines, to changing external factors and dependencies on other parties that were not doing their part.

This happens often; so, here is some guidance on how to proceed.

The first thing to remember is that when implementing one’s strategy, there is always some level of uncertainty. Setting OKRs helps to provide direction to navigate the unknown. However, because of this uncertainty, the results we’re going after or the chosen approach to get there can change. The most important thing is that we learn from this process and refine our strategy and approach going forward.

Therefore, don’t remove the Key Result. Instead, leave it in the tracker and rather note what has changed. This will help ensure that:

  • You log the learnings and take them into account when resetting your OKRs in the following quarter
  • You don’t spend time in weekly check-ins talking about the Key Result if it is no longer relevant

As part of the reflection process at the end of the cycle, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Could better upfront planning have helped identify that this Key Result was not appropriate? (e.g. Getting input from the senior team member earlier?)
  • Could aligning priorities and communicating dependencies earlier with other teams have helped?
  • Did you overestimate your team’s capacity and capabilities and how much you can realistically accomplish in one quarter?
  • Have there been unfortunate circumstances that are outside of your control (e.g. weather) that have impacted your ability to achieve your Key Results?

If any of the first three points are true, take this into account when setting OKRs for the next quarter – getting input from experienced team members and dependent teams will mitigate some of this risk.

If the fourth point is true, you need to determine what is in your control and whether you need to change direction. Although we avoid this as much as possible, this may warrant you to change your Key Results mid-cycle.

There may also be other reasons why you are no longer able to achieve your Key Results. It’s through regular conversations and reflections that we can learn from this and ensure we get better at setting the right Key Results going forward.

If you have questions, we’re always keen for coffee.

Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!

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