Teams need accountability more than they need OKRs

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When I read Radical Focus for the first time, I was amazed at how well it depicted my own experience with OKRs. First, you're wondering about this new framework and what it all means, then you get excited by the goal-setting process—we can do big things!

But quickly soon after, you forget about your OKRs as you get sucked into work. It's only at the end of the quarter that you realize that you've been distracted and worked on all the wrong things.

So how does that happen? We spend so much time talking about alignment that we often forget the second side of the OKRs coin: accountability.

It's not OKRs vs. accountability

The title of the post opposes OKRs to accountability, but the reality is that the latter is included in the former:

The 4 parts of OKRs

You can divide OKRs in 4 parts that need to be combined to have an effective process:

  • Alignment: making sure we're in sync and aiming in the right direction.
  • Accountability: keeping track of progress.
  • Agility: being able to change direction when required.
  • Empowered teams: this can only work if, and only if, our teams are empowered to make decisions and take action.

Accountability is that piece at the center that will help you turn OKRs into a decision tool. You set yourself some hard goals, and now you need to work on them.

Without proper goal-tracking, OKRs are just a workshop that you run once a quarter.

Why accountability is hard

I can see 2 big reasons why so many of us struggle with keeping track of progress.

First, the word accountability has a bit of a bad reputation. But holding your team accountable is not about putting pressure on people. It's about making sure that we're committed to specific objectives—and not being distracted.

Second, achieving our goals involves a lot of moving parts. We have to write specs, hold meetings, review designs, build features and products. It's just impossible to keep in mind both the immediate problems we need to solve, and the reasons why we're tackling those problems. 

So, how do we solve that problem?

If we can't rely on ourselves to remember our goals, then we need the right tools and processes to help us keep in mind what's important.

  • Better processes: implement a weekly team ritual where you start the week by discussing progress on your OKRs. This will act as a forced reminder to discuss priorities.
  • Better tools: use better work goal tracking tools that understand the requirements of OKRs. For instance, Tability will send automatic check-ins reminders when status updates are due.
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Sten Pittet

Co-founder and CEO, Tability

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