That’s the sound of John Doerr’s bestselling book “Measure What Matters” hitting your desk, followed soon after by your boss’s voice recommending, not so gently, that you read it ASAP. Why?  Because your organization is going to be joining countless others in implementing the most powerful strategy execution methodology sweeping the globe – Objectives & Key Results, known as OKRs.  Or…so says your boss.

You’re a good corporate soldier so you read the entire book, cover to cover, and when you finish the last page you think, “This actually makes sense. OKRs have definite promise!” But then you remember the dozens other things on your plate right now, the never-ending list of meetings, e-mails, messages, and all-consuming fires you’re constantly fighting.

Is it worth it?

At that point you wonder, “Is it worth it?” Not just for the organization but for you as a leader. Should you put your most valuable resources – your time and attention – at risk for this goal setting system?

As an OKRs Consultant who has worked with hundreds of organizations world-wide, my answer to you is a resounding and confident YES!  If you want to become a better leader, OKRs are the path for you. In fact, there are at least five ways in which embracing OKRs will enhance your growth and development as a leader.  So, what is the relationship between OKRs and Leadership?  Let’s explore them each, one at a time.

Number One: OKRs Force an Understanding of Strategy

Statistics agree – the number of employees that actually understand their company’s strategy is dismally low. It’s often suggested that a meager 15% of employees can name even one of their organization’s top 3 goals. As a leader you may think you’re immune to this – “Of course I know the strategy!” But do you? Beyond a glossy Powerpoint deck shared at the last Town Hall, do you really understand the machinery behind the strategic plan?

Strategy, meet Execution

OKRs, at their core, are a tool to help you build and execute your strategy by translating it into concrete objectives with corresponding results metrics (key results). Once you have this strategic architecture in place you can now give everyone in the company the opportunity to demonstrate their unique contribution with aligned tactical OKRs.   The first order of business in effectively utilizing OKRs, then, is ensuring you truly understand the specifics of your company’s strategy.  And this goes way beyond being able to recite words you see on posters hanging in your meeting rooms.

If the strategy isn’t crystal clear – target customers, chosen value proposition, challenges you must overcome, etc. – then you need to don your corporate Sherlock Holmes hat, dig in and find answers. If that means going to the C-Suite, knocking on some doors and asking the tough questions, then so be it. The payoff for that investment of time, enthusiasm, and interest is enormous. By asking these questions and doing the necessary digging, you will slowly become an expert in your organization’s strategy. With this knowledge in hand you’ll be able to harness the power of OKRs in translating that strategy into reality.

You simply can’t successfully implement a strategy execution framework, such as OKRs, without first becoming a master of your company’s strategy.  This is a key attribute of good leadership!


Stay tuned for part 2 of this series on OKRs and Leadership, as we discuss the importance of Leadership Storytelling! (Coming next week).

Paul Niven is an OKRs Coach with, and the author of numerous books on organizational strategy, including Objectives & Key Results, Driving Focus, Alignment and Engagement with OKRs.  Stay tuned for Paul’s upcoming book, ‘OKRs for Dummies’, coming this summer!