A successful OKR practice requires a certain degree of transparency. The transparency itself is needed to create alignment: vertical (e.g. division – team – individual) and horizontal (e.g. Business Development – Business – Operations).
In practice, however, things are not as simple as it seems. Sometimes, there are things that are considered as sensitive, such as finding a replacement for a C-level position. As a result, transparency is not a feasible option.
In such a case, would it be possible to create a private OKR?
The answer is yes, we’d advise the CEO to create another OKR (private) for this purpose. It’s recommended that this private OKR is to be opened to others who are relevant (e.g. another C-level individual). The idea is to help you focus and accountable to your team; in this case, your C-level group minus the one you’re planning to replace.
The other (non-private) OKR of yours should be treated regularly: open to your employees, aligns properly with the top-line OKR, and so on — just like the other OKR in the company.
Note: Human Resources or Human Capital often face a similar situation in which they require to maintain 2 sets of OKRs: private and public. It’s because of the nature of their work which requires an extra level of confidentiality.
Chapter 6 in Measure What Matters (John Doerr’s book) also discussed the occasional need to create a private OKR.