How to combine Performance Management and OKR?

You don’t! Let me explain.

The main reason for OKR in most organisation is to create focus and alignment between strategy and the day-to-day work in complex environments. OKR help to validate our assumptions and hypotheses to find out what works well, what not. So like in science, it is very likely that some of the hypotheses won’t work right away, in other words, not achieved OKR is a natural part of the process. But this doesn’t mean that the teams weren’t engaged or haven’t tried what they could.

Now if people get evaluated based on (not) achieved OKRs, then they won’t try at all but rather go with things that are safe and achievable. It’s called sandbagging. This will block the way of new ideas and innovation.

On the other hand people will do anything to reach their goals which means, hacking the system, prioritising own goals, creating (new) silos, becoming toxic in their relations with their peers.

There are studies showing that the productivity decreases. Watch Daniel Pink’s Ted talk “Puzzle of Motivation” and read his book Drive 🙂

But what to do instead?

The best you can do is to get rid of bonuses and rigid performance score cards based on top down defined individual goals, that are almost never achievable individually, but rather in teams and collaboration with others.

In 21st century it’s time to rethink the whole system. Instead of forcing new approaches into old ones, reform the whole system.

How to integrate OKR into the feedback culture?

Basically, you need to (let) engage, maintain a continuous conversation and feedback around expected outcomes and recognition of behaviors you want to see more of.

Tell me how you measure me and I’ll tell you how I will behave.

Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Organizations working with OKR have a great opportunity. As coach I recommend to use the workshops and meetings around the OKR Process as input for this kind of continuous conversation.

how to integrate OKR into the feedback culture

Engage

OKR Planning and OKR Alignment Workshops are the perfect workshops for leadership to engage with the teams on a strategical and tactical level and let teams engage with each other to create synergies, to identify dependencies and create networks.

Conversation

You can use OKR check-ins during the OKR cycle and OKR Reviews and Reflections at the end of the cycle to establish an on-going conversation with the teams, about their efforts, honest conversation about work works what not, encouraging them to try different ideas, removing organisational impediments, enabling them with tools, resources, whatever they need.

Feedback

Use the weekly 1:1 Meetings to develop and discuss a clear personal growth path. Discuss if and how the person can contribute to the team’s OKR. Have a look at Christina Wodtke’s GROW model.

OKR Alignment Workshops, joint OKR Checkins, joint Reviews and Retros, all-hands meetings or similar formats are a perfect platform to enable peer feedback and to learn from each other.

Recognition

Again OKR Alignment workshops, all-hands meetings or similar formats offer a space to encourage the behaviors you want to see more of, by giving it a proper recognition.

For example, if you want to see more innovation, then reward, most exiting experiment for its valuable learnings, not for its achievement score. If you want to encourage collaborative culture let peers choose the most helpful colleagues of the week/month/quarter/year.


This ongoing conversation and feedbacks can be used as input for regular and frequent career and personal development reviews.

One size does NOT fit all

It doesn’t come easy. You need to invest time and energy to find the right ways to enable such a feedback culture in your organization.

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