OKR vs. SMART goals: What's the difference?

OKR vs. SMART goals: What's the difference?

Portrait of Ivee Yang Lark's Author
Portrait of Ivee Yang Lark's Author

Ivy Yang

October 9, 2023


Oct 9, 2023


5 min read

Display Lark OKR product interface design
Display Lark OKR product interface design
Display Lark OKR product interface design
Display Lark OKR product interface design

When it comes to setting objectives and measuring progress, two popular frameworks often come to mind: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and SMART Goals. Both methodologies provide structure and guidance for achieving desired outcomes, but they differ in their approach and focus. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between OKRs and SMART Goals, as well as examples to illustrate their applications to help you determine what works best for your team.

Understanding OKRs

OKRs are a goal-setting framework that helps organizations define and track objectives and their corresponding results. The OKR framework consists of two main components: objectives and key results.

Objectives define the desired outcome or direction, while key results measure progress towards achieving the objectives. OKRs are typically set on a quarterly basis, and they encourage ambitious and aspirational goals.

Lark OKR connects OKRs of different employees together

For example, let's say a marketing team sets an objective to increase brand awareness. The key results associated with this objective could be to achieve a 20% increase in website traffic, a 15% growth in social media followers, and a 10% increase in brand mentions in the press. These measurable key results align with the overall objective and provide a clear path for the team to follow.

Exploring SMART Goals

SMART Goals, on the other hand, are a goal-setting framework that focuses on setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework is widely used across industries and emphasizes setting goals that are well-defined and attainable within a specific timeframe.

For instance, let's consider a sales team that wants to increase revenue. A SMART Goal for this team could be to achieve a 10% increase in quarterly sales by implementing a new lead generation strategy within the next three months. This goal is specific (10% increase in sales), measurable (through tracking revenue), achievable (with the implementation of a new strategy), relevant (to the team's objective of increasing revenue), and time-bound (within the next three months).

Comparing OKRs and SMART Goals

While both OKRs and SMART Goals provide a structured approach to goal setting, they have distinct differences in their focus and flexibility. OKRs are more flexible and encourage ambitious goals, while SMART Goals emphasize specificity and attainability. Here are some key points of comparison:

  • Scope: OKRs are often used at an organizational level, aligning high-level objectives with departmental goals. SMART Goals can be used at various levels, from individual to team to department goals.

  • Timeframe: OKRs are typically set on a quarterly basis, allowing for shorter-term focus and adaptability. SMART Goals can have different timeframes depending on the nature of the goal, ranging from short-term to long-term objectives.

  • Ambition: OKRs encourage setting ambitious goals that push the boundaries and inspire innovation. SMART Goals focus on setting goals that are realistic and attainable within a given timeframe.

  • Measurement: OKRs use Key Results to measure progress, often based on a numerical or quantitative scale. SMART Goals also emphasize measurable objectives but may include qualitative measures as well.

Examples of OKRs and SMART Goals

To better illustrate the differences between OKRs and SMART Goals, let's consider some examples:

OKR example:

  • Objective:

    • Improve customer satisfaction

  • Key Results:

    • Increase Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 10 points

    • Reduce customer support response time by 20%

    • Achieve a customer retention rate of 90%

SMART goal example:

  • Goal: Enhance employee training program

  • Specific: Develop a new training curriculum for customer service representatives

  • Measurable: Conduct post-training assessments to measure knowledge retention

  • Achievable: Allocate resources and schedule training sessions

  • Relevant: Improve customer satisfaction and increase employee performance

  • Time-bound: Complete the training program within six months

Both OKRs and SMART goals offer valuable frameworks for goal setting and measurement. OKRs provide flexibility and encourage ambitious objectives, while SMART Goals emphasize specificity and attainability. The choice between the two depends on the organization's culture, the nature of the objectives, and the desired outcomes.

Whether you choose OKRs or SMART goals, what matters most is the commitment to setting meaningful objectives and tracking progress. With the right framework and a clear understanding of your goals, you can start easily checking off your company goals and objectives within deadlines.

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