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OKRs (Objectives and key results) v/s KPIs (key performance indicators)—What’s the Difference?

Posted by Devayani Bapat

May 11, 2024

There are nuances to each term and what they quantify. Find out when to use OKRs and KPIs to achieve your business goals.

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, where trending industry leaders can quickly become the stale news of tomorrow, both small and large enterprises need potent tools and well-defined objectives to navigate these changes effectively. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are not just theoretical concepts, but practical methodologies that can be easily implemented to drive organizational success. Let’s delve into their practical applications and how they can guide teams toward success.

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This article will explore these financial terminologies in more depth, offering a clearer understanding of each and exploring how they can be leveraged to drive organizational success.

What are OKRs?

Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, are a strategic framework that organizations use to set achievable, realistic, and measurable goals. 


This approach helps companies, teams, and individuals within those companies to establish a clear overview of objectives and work towards achieving them while also setting quantifiable metrics to gauge the success of these goals. This method benefits companies because it is generally more aggressive and provides a highly transparent way of mapping out targets to be achieved, often quarterly or annually.  

Adopting OKRs in modern business practices is not just a theoretical concept, but a proven strategy for success. Look at tech giant Google, which continues to utilize this technique successfully. Their immense success can be attributed to setting achievable goals for shorter periods, typically two to four months. This success story should inspire you and your organization to consider implementing OKRs.  

The key to success, especially regarding OKRs, lies in the company’s ability to set realistic and timely goals and review them and its capacity to consistently monitor whether individual and team objectives align with the overarching company goals.

What are KPIs?


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential in entrepreneurship and business, regardless of industry. These essential tools assess the effectiveness of operational strategies, a business’s overall success, and specific organizational activities within various roles and departments.

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Fundamental to basic finance terms, KPIs are often tied to data-driven insights, providing quantifiable figures that help identify the success or failure of particular campaigns or tasks. 


These indicators can be applied across diverse domains such as projects, products, and broader organizational goals. 

The most important KPI:


Among the most crucial are financial KPIs, which focus on examining a company’s financial health. These metrics assess performance in key areas critical to financial success, enabling organizations to monitor their economic health effectively. By tracking general and financial KPIs, businesses can stay ahead of industry trends and anticipate future shifts. This foresight allows them to strategically plan and adapt their business and growth strategies to leverage potential opportunities and mitigate risks, ensuring self-sustained growth and success.

The Difference:

Category

OKRs

KPIs

Key purpose

Aggressive and aspirational, OKRs are often set by businesses in tandem with their goals and plans.

These metrics are evaluated against goals to assess whether the organization has been successful or needs to recoup and rethink its strategies. 

Timeline

These goals are usually set on a quarterly or annual basis.

These are generally set to be measured and reviewed over standard reporting times such as monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on what is pre-discussed and established. 

Measure

This has two elements to it: one is the objective, which is a pre-defined goal that has been set, and the second is the result, which is a measurable metric used to evaluate whether the objective has been met or not.

They are quantifiable metrics that can be evaluated against a specific task or objective that has been set.

Adaptability

These can evolve as the company’s goals and objectives evolve, pushing the team to reevaluate, rethink, and take more significant risks.

These are often set in place as they are ongoing reminders of business performance; hence, they rarely change. They usually only shift if there is a shift in business strategy or goals.

An example:


To illustrate the practical applications of OKRs and KPIs, let’s consider a real-life scenario of a small tech startup aiming to expand its market presence. The startup strategically sets OKRs and KPIs to effectively achieve its goals and manage growth. The business sets a clear objective to increase market share and user engagement by the end of the financial year. The key results are to gain 1,000 new customers each quarter. These OKRs are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound—designed to drive significant strategic achievements and propel the business toward ambitious growth.  

Subsequently, the startup sets KPIs to monitor performance. One such KPI is the monthly recurring revenue, checked at the end of every month. This metric is not just a number, but a tool that helps the business gauge how their day-to-day activities are performing and allows for timely strategic adjustments. They’re essential for monitoring ongoing operational performance, providing a sense of stability and control.  

While OKRs set challenging goals that aim to stretch the company’s capabilities and achieve significant leaps forward, KPIs monitor the business’s health and current operational effectiveness. Together, they ensure the startup navigates its ambitious growth targets and everyday operational challenges, providing a balanced approach to business development.

The Key Takeaway:


Understanding and implementing OKRs and KPIs are fundamental and strategic for any business aiming to succeed in today’s ever-changing business landscape. OKRs challenge organizations to aim for the stars and focus on ambitious, time-bound goals that drive strategic initiatives. In contrast, KPIs are vital indicators that monitor ongoing performance and operational success, ensuring the business remains streamlined, on track, and equipped to make informed decisions. 

To sum up, OKRs are about setting ambitious goals, while KPIs are about monitoring ongoing performance. 

These tools provide a comprehensive framework that fosters ambitious growth and ensures that daily operations contribute to the broader strategic objectives. Lastly, for businesses looking to optimize performance and achieve self-sustained growth, mastering both OKRs and KPIs is not just beneficial—it’s essential. 

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Want to know more? In addition to HR, benefits, recruiting, and payroll through its PeopleOps, Escalon’s Essential Business Services include FinOps (CFO services, taxes, bookkeeping, and accounting) and Risk (business insurance). Talk to an expert today.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal, or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please get in touch with us here.

Author

Devayani Bapat
Devayani Bapat

With 6 years of experience in copywriting and social media management across genres, Devayani's heart lies with weaving words into stories and visuals into carefully crafted narratives that’ll keep you wanting more. She carries with her, her pocket notebook, a trusted confidante that goes with her wherever she goes, and scribbles down into it anecdotes on the go. Her secret weapon for keeping all things copy interesting! Apart from writing, Devayani is huge on travelling. You'll find her booking her next adventure while she's on her current one. And while on those adventures, you'll find her devouring true crime books one after the other. Whether it's a low down on a recent case or one that occurred 70 years ago, she can cook up a story narration you'll never forget.

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