OKRs v. EOS, Which Path is Right for Your Company?

The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are both popular frameworks for setting goals and managing performance in organizations. Since I have extensive experience with both frameworks, both as an executive as well as a Consultant I am frequently asked for my opinion about the two frameworks.  The simple answer, and what I tell our clients is: ‘I like them both!’  This may seem like a fence-riding answer, but it’s the honest truth.

I realize that’s not a very satisfying answer though,  so let’s dig a little deeper.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System

EOS is a holistic management system that is designed to help organizations ‘clarify, simplify, and achieve their vision’. It is based on a set of simple, practical tools that are designed to help leaders clarify their Purpose/Cause/Passion, align their teams, and execute their plans. The system consists of six key components: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction. Each component is designed to help leaders manage a different aspect of their organization and is supported by a range of tools and techniques. Generally, the EOS management system is designed for small to small/medium sized companies – hence the name Entrepreneurial Operating System.

The OKRs Framework

OKRs, on the other hand, are a goal-setting framework that is designed to help organizations set and achieve specific, measurable, and ambitious objectives all aligned to a clear strategy. The system consists of a set of clear, measurable objectives and key results that are designed to be challenging but achievable. OKRs are typically set for a specific period (e.g., annually or quarterly) and are used to track progress and ensure that teams are working toward common goals and strategic intent. The superpowers of OKRs are 1) strategic focus, 2) vertical and horizontal alignment across the enterprise, 3) employee engagement (literally giving employees the opportunity to write themselves into the company’s strategy), and 4) measured risk taking. OKRs can be implemented in any size organization, from start-ups to Fortune 100 global enterprises.

Finding the Yin

There are some clear similarities between EOS and OKRs. For example:

  1. Both systems are focused on setting clear, measurable goals. Whether using EOS or OKRs, the focus is on setting clear, measurable goals that are aligned with an organization’s strategic priorities. In OKRs goals are called ‘Objectives’; in EOS they are referred to as ‘Rocks’.
  2. Both systems emphasize the importance of alignment. Both EOS and OKRs emphasize the importance of aligning individual and team goals with an organization’s overall strategic priorities. This ensures that everyone is working toward common goals and that resources are being used effectively.
  3. Both systems are designed to promote accountability. Both EOS and OKRs are designed to promote accountability by providing clear targets and metrics for success. This helps to ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and that progress is being tracked effectively.
  4. Both systems include good governance to support the effort. Both EOS and OKRs support a suite of governance disciplines designed to make data-driven decision making a hardwired management practice, such as meeting cadences, reporting, transparency, etc.
  5. Both frameworks promote transparency. Both EOS and OKRs include tools and techniques for building trust, resolving conflicts, and improving transparency and collaboration across departments/teams/tribes, breaking down silos in the process.

Finding the Yang

However, there are some differences between the two systems. For example:

  1. EOS is a more comprehensive management system: While OKRs are focused specifically on strategy execution through goal setting, EOS is a more comprehensive management system that includes tools and techniques for managing all aspects of an organization.
  2. EOS places a greater emphasis on process than OKRs. This includes processes for managing issues, making decisions (such as how and who to hire), and improving operational efficiencies. While a good OKRs implementation should include process-oriented Objectives (from a goal-setting perspective), it is not a framework of processes. Given that EOS is largely designed for younger organizations, there is an imbedded assumption that they are more process-needy than more mature companies.
  3. OKRs are more flexible than EOS: OKRs are designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing teams to adjust their goals and key results as needed based on changing circumstances, moving targets, wild market fluctuations, or ongoing feedback. EOS tends to be more structured and less flexible.

Money and Time

Perhaps the biggest difference between to two frameworks, and why I focus exclusively on OKRs Coaching, is the time and money it takes for a company (client) to fully implement EOS vs. OKRs.  It takes a company two years to fully complete the EOS implementation process; which, if you hire a Certified EOS Implementer to assist you, can become both expensive and time consuming. A full OKRs implementation only takes 6-8 weeks, and a company can be fully operational and ‘on their own’ within a single quarter.  If you hire an OKRs Coach to help you implement the OKRs Framework, your investment of both time and money is considerably less than with EOS.

Bottom Line

Either way – OKRs or EOS – you are on a good path.  Both systems are valuable frameworks for managing performance and executing strategy.  Hopefully now you can see why I say that I like both OKRs and EOS!  At the end of the day, its really a matter of budget, time, needs, and desired outcomes.  Good luck out there!

Kevin Baum is a Global OKRs Consultant with OKRsTraining.com and the author of the book, ‘Lessons from the Line, Why Every Leader Should Be A Firefighter For A Day’. You can reach Kevin at [email protected].