Top reasons why OKRs fails in Nonprofits

OKR is a simple, flexible goal-setting methodology and it is used by many organizations across industries including nonprofit. OKR can be a very effective tool for organizations to set ambitious goals, align stakeholders with strategy, focus execution on what matters, continuously monitor progress and build a culture of transparency or accountability. But the effectiveness of the framework depends on how it is adopted in an organization, below are some of the top reasons why OKR framework can fail in a nonprofit organization

  • Not involving all the stakeholders in the goal setting process
  • Setting OKRs top down without inputs from team members
  • Not setting simple, understandable OKRs
  • Not setting OKRs based on outcomes
  • Not setting ambitious OKRs
  • Not being agile – OKRs should be reviewed and learnings should be used to continuously update OKRs
  • Having too many OKRs – focus on what matters

We will discuss each of these items in more detail and also review how these can be prevented when implementing OKRs in your organization

Not involving all the stakeholders in the goal setting process

Nonprofit organizations have many stakeholders such as board members, employees, volunteers, corporates, government agencies. It is important to involve key stakeholders in the goal setting process to ensure everyone is aligned behind the strategic goals. Adopting OKRs is a cultural change for any organization and it is critical to have the support of key stakeholders for successful adoption of the OKR framework.

Setting OKRs top down without inputs from team members

OKR framework encourages collaboration and helps organizations to build a culture of transparency and accountability. It is important to not push all OKRs from the top to the teams and employees, as this could lead to demotivation and discourage collaboration among teams and employees. Strategic OKRs should be set by the leadership team and each team and its members should be given freedom to set their own OKRs that are aligned to the strategic OKRs. Strategic OKRs will provide directions, while collaboratively set team and individual OKRs provide freedom for teams to decide how the strategy is executed.

Not setting OKRs based on outcomes

One of the main principles of OKRs is to become an Outcomes based organization rather than output/activities based organization. Outputs/Activities provide a way to measure progress but it does not have to lead to desired outcome. So it is important to set OKRs that are outcomes based. Good outcome based Objectives help to identify which outputs/activities will most likely help to achieve the desired outcomes. If the OKRs are set properly, the objectives will clearly describe the outcomes in simple understandable words while Key Results will provide the outputs/activities that will help achieve the desired outcome.

Not setting ambitious OKRs

Setting ambitious OKRs should be in the DNA of any organization’s OKR process. Teams and individuals should be encouraged and given freedom to set ambitious but attainable goals without the fear of failure. Especially in Nonprofits, setting ambitious OKRs that are aligned to the social mission of the organization is critical and can help motivate all the stakeholders involved.

Not being agile

OKR is a flexible, agile framework. Organizations should continuously monitor OKRs and adapt them as necessary. Reviewing OKRs is as important as planning OKRs, all the learnings from previous periods should be incorporated into the OKRs for the new period. Even within a period, OKRs can be adapted if there is a need for change. OKR encourages t to continuously monitor the progress, we highly recommend updating quarterly OKRs at least once a week and annual OKRs at least once a month. Using software such as OKRify can help with continuous monitoring of OKRs with automatic progress update with data from Salesforce and notifications for updating OKR progress.

Having too many OKRs

OKR is all about focussed execution so everyone is focussed on executing the strategy. So it is important to not set too many OKRs at all levels, from strategic company level OKRs to team and individual OKRs it is important to focus on the outcomes that are critical for the business. We highly recommend having 5 to 8 strategic organization level OKRs and 3 to 5 team or individual level OKRs, this will provide for the ability to focus on what really matters.

Please contact us at [email protected] we provide free OKR training for Nonprofit organizations and would love to help you get the benefit from this simple, flexible goal setting framework.