OKR is meant to provide an unmoving and clear goal. The OKR that has been set should not be changed. Christina Wodtke—an author, American businessperson and specialist in the area of design thinking, information architecture and Management Science—echoed the same sentiment in her book Radical Focus:
Do not change OKRs halfway through the quarter. If you see you've set them badly, suck it up and either fail or nail them, and use that learning to set them better next time.
This gives a clear message to everyone: you need to do your planning very carefully. Writing an OKR is very similar to making an informed decision: you need to consider all aspects that are involved (mostly data and information) and plan accordingly.
However, we acknowledge that reality can give complex and challenging circumstances, mostly because we have little or no control over the external factors (our managers, clients, industry, etc).
When such cases occur and require you to change your OKR, despite your best effort in planning, then these are our recommendations.
1. Never delete the wrong KR. Always keep them there as part of the record
Let's say you already wrote down the OKR in the OKR Dashboard. After two weeks have passed, you realized that KR 1.1 is incorrect. Instead of 10 new clients by the end of Q1, you need 30.
What you should do is strike through the wrong KR and write the correct one. Then, you must put in the note to explain two things:
a. Why this KR is changed
b. Approval from your manager (or one-level up) regarding the changes (You should only publish the changes after it has been approved)
2. You can add new KRs if the situation asks for it.
Using the same example from above, you have 1 Objective and 3 KRs.
Once this has been set, you realize that you need one additional KR to achieve the Objective.
What you should do is add the new KR and write the note to explain:
- This is an additional KR
- Why this KR is important to be completed in that particular week
- When this KR is added
- Approval from your manager (or one-level up) regarding this addition
Perhaps you are wondering: why can't we delete the wrong KR? And, why do we need to bother adding the notes?
All of our OKRs are written down in the artifact that's called OKR Dashboard. The dashboard is useful to build the OKR cadence by providing a place for everyone to write down their priorities. In other words, it is a recording tool. It records what's going on from week to week.
Thus, any changes must be recorded to ensure the dashboard can be a reliable source of truth. This would particularly be beneficial for everyone when they look back and evaluate the OKR cadence. It'd be easier for them to identify what went well, what didn't go well, and what they should do differently.
When the lessons learned are identified and recorded properly, the dashboard would be a helpful tool to nudge improvement for every individual involved.
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1/ If you're interested in articles like this, you might want to check out our writings on Medium. It covers a diverse topics of Product Management, People Operations, and everything in between.