OKR's vs. KPI's: What's the difference?

OKR's vs. KPI's: What's the difference?

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

Ivy Yang

October 5, 2023


Oct 5, 2023


5 min read

desktop working filling in Lark OKR together with other teammates
desktop working filling in Lark OKR together with other teammates
desktop working filling in Lark OKR together with other teammates
desktop working filling in Lark OKR together with other teammates

Want to set clear objectives and measure your progress towards achievement? There are two popular frameworks for goal-setting and performance measurement: Objectives and Key Results and Key Performance Indicators. In this blog, learn about OKRs and KPIs, their purposes, and their differences to understand which one is most suitable for you and your team.

What are 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 are qualitative statements that define the desired outcome or direction for a specific period. These objectives should be ambitious, inspiring, and aligned with the organization's overall mission and vision. For example, an objective for a collaboration suite company could be "Increase user engagement and adoption of collaboration features."

Key Results, on the other hand, are measurable outcomes that indicate progress towards achieving the objectives. They are specific, time-bound, and quantifiable. For instance, key results for the above objective could include "Increase daily active users of collaboration features by 20% within the next quarter" or "Achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 9 for collaboration features by the end of the year."

OKR of Linda Jones to 'increase app store reviews average' assigned to Matthew Powell and Daniel Ortiz

OKRs are typically set and reviewed on a quarterly basis, providing a framework for teams and individuals to align their efforts and focus on the most impactful objectives. See some of our OKR examples here.

What are KPIs?

KPIs, on the other hand, are specific metrics used to measure the performance of various aspects of a business. Unlike OKRs, which focus on objectives and results, KPIs are primarily concerned with tracking performance and providing insights into the success or failure of specific activities.

For a collaboration suite company, KPIs could include metrics such as:

  • User adoption rate: Measuring the percentage of users who actively use collaboration features.

  • Customer satisfaction: Measuring the satisfaction level of customers with the collaboration suite.

  • Time to resolution: Measuring the average time taken to resolve customer issues related to collaboration features.

Abstraction of Q4 2024 KPI, metrics to measure and achieve, and comments on those metrics

KPIs are often tracked on an ongoing basis and are used to monitor the success of day-to-day operations and identify areas for improvement.

What's the difference?

OKRs and KPIs offer different benefits in the context of goal-setting and performance measurement. OKRs provide organizations with a framework to set ambitious objectives and track progress towards achieving them. By focusing on qualitative statements and measurable key results, OKRs inspire teams and individuals to strive for excellence and align their efforts with the organization's mission and vision.

On the other hand, KPIs offer specific metrics for tracking performance and gaining insights into the success or failure of specific activities. By monitoring KPIs on an ongoing basis, organizations can identify areas for improvement, make data-driven decisions, and ensure the success of day-to-day operations.

Let's consider the goal of increasing customer satisfaction. In KPI format, this goal could be expressed as "Achieve a customer satisfaction score of 90%." Here, the focus is on a specific metric (customer satisfaction score) and a target value (90%).

On the other hand, in OKR format, the same goal could be expressed as "Objective: Improve customer satisfaction. Key Result: Increase the Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 10 points." In this case, the OKR framework emphasizes both the objective (improving customer satisfaction) and a specific measurable outcome (increasing the NPS by 10 points).

Which one do I use?

When deciding between OKRs and KPIs, it is essential to consider the specific situation and goals of an individual or organization. OKRs are often best suited for situations where there is a need for more flexibility, adaptability, and innovation. They allow for a broader focus and encourage experimentation and learning. If you are in a rapidly changing industry or working on projects that require agility and creativity, OKRs can provide a more suitable framework.

On the other hand, KPIs are ideal for situations where there is a need for a clear and specific target to measure performance against. They are particularly useful for tracking and improving specific metrics that directly impact business outcomes. If you are working on well-defined and stable processes or in industries where precision and efficiency are crucial, KPIs can offer a more effective approach.

Ultimately, the choice between OKRs and KPIs depends on the context and goals of the individual or organization. It is also worth noting that a combination of both frameworks can be used, with OKRs providing the flexibility and innovation focus, while KPIs ensure the measurement and achievement of specific targets. Learn more about how to write effective OKRs here.

Here are more resources if you are looking for a general overview of OKR software, or looking for specific OKR management tool alternatives on Profit.co, Culture Amp, Monday.com, Clickup, Leapsome, and others.

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