Part 4 of OKR-Misconceptions: Only Leaders can set OKRs for everyone in the organization


OKRs has gained massive popularity in all parts of the world owing to the fact that they hold immense potential to elevate the performance levels of an organization if done correctly. 

But, the real challenge comes when people of the organization actually sit down to figure the OKRs. 

“Who should do it?” is the first question that comes to mind when we speak of framing OKRs. Followed up by- 

  • Are OKRs hierarchical? 
  • Should it be set only by the leaders? 
  • Does it cascade down only from the top? 

These are some of the common questions that we get as often associated with the setting of OKRs. 

Well, the simple answer to these questions would be NO. Leaders do not need to set OKRs for the teams and the entire organization. Not all OKRs need cascading. And, OKRs aren’t hierarchical. 

OKRs give creative freedom to individuals to set their own objectives and what are the key results that will determine how successful they are. 

There are organizational objectives that need to be set first. The organizational objectives form as a guideline for organization-wide OKRs. So basically, it is the alignment that matters. 

OKRs for each team must be aligned with the ultimate objectives of the organization. The teams can set their own OKRs, incorporate extra miles OKRs too if they would want to work on them. 

This not only gives them more creative freedom but also enhances accountability as team members themselves are involved in setting up their objectives. Whether they are working towards the right path is made sure during their check-ins with the leaders of the organization. 

OKRs not only enable teams to perform on their own set goals but also empower the employees who want to walk an extra mile to meet their objectives which are beyond the team. OKRs is that personal development tool that enables an employee to set objectives that are not part of the team objectives, but only for themselves and their own improvement and skill-building. 

Had OKRs been only set by the leaders, this freedom would not have been available. Neither would employees have that enhanced sense of accountability and motivation. 

Whenever a top-down approach is employed in the system there are a few things that happen, 

  • Employees feel they are being dictated to work in a certain way. 
  • Loss of freedom reduces accountability to achieve the goals. 
  • The process becomes very mechanical and robotic.

Such an organisational culture is unable to retain employees and usually have a high attrition rate. 

But for an organization that has been following the Top-down approach since the beginning of time, to shift to an entirely new approach may be difficult. So for them, the first stepping stone will be to increase the involvement of the employees in the process. 

Making the process collaborative where even if the leadership sets their OKRs, they are allowed to add to it or make limited changes to it. This was even though the OKRs are coming from the top but it is mutually accepted by the employees too as they have an opportunity to make their voices heard. 

This approach increases employee motivation and their dedication to achieve the set goals.

Thus to conclude, OKRs can be by anyone making sure that it is aligned with the organizational goals. It is a self-improvement tool, so employees trying to make themselves better can use OKRs’ full potential to do so. Even an organization that believes in only enabling the Leadership to set the company-wide OKRs should start engaging and involving their employees more in the set-up process as it is a critical determinant of their motivation, accountability and retention.


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