Really, are OKRs just for senior leadership?


Hey folks! My name is Michael Davis, and I've been practicing OKRs for...quite some time. I founded's strategic services practice, and lead a team of OKR coaches here at Microsoft. 


One of the most common questions I've gotten in side conversations with clients and members of their organizations is simply: why should I use OKRs? It seems like something that's really intended for senior leaders who just want more visibility into what's happening


While OKRs certainly help to provide visibility for senior leadership, it does the same for employees throughout an organization. But wait: visibility is not enough, you still haven't answered the question: why should I use OKRs? 


Here are some reasons why, and why they're particularly valuable for teams

  1. A quick way to stay aligned on team goals, supporting initiatives
  2. A great way to stay in sync with your manager or direct reports without having to nag people constantly in 1-1 chats or e-mails
  3. You can leverage Dashboards to run team meetings and track notes / action items over time in ONE place 
  4. Bonus: Businesses run with a focus on strategic priorities and metrics. Getting into the habit of thinking in these patterns can be extremely beneficial over one's career in the long run!

But practically, how do I get started? Do I have to train everyone on my team on OKRs? The simple answer is No. OKRs are a skillset that gets nurtured over time, and many people need time to really build and hone this skillset. A great way to start with Viva Goals is simply to enter existing goals into the system, and start using it in your team meetings or bi-weekly / monthly reviews. Over time, you can use our plethora of resources to upskill your team(s) at a pace that makes sense for your business. 

3 Replies
Great post, Michael!

In addition to your four reasons, I'd also add:
1. The building of the OKRs is where alignment starts. The analysis and understanding of the OKRs that need to be aligned into creates a deeper understanding and connection to the priorities they are framing.

2. The ideation around solving the challenges they present is where creativity and innovation can surface and the fact that they are being empowered to build their own OKRs is a clear demonstration of the trust and confidence Leadership has in their people.

3. Finally, creating OKRs which are worked on by cross-functional squads is the best way to counteract against the tendency towards the siloed working hierarchical organisations that often find slow down execution and increases waste and cost.
Roger! Been a while. Great to see you here.

I love your points.

Re: 1 -- I think your call out of understanding which OKRs need to be aligned is important...Because some goals may simply align up to a team-level (or may sit at the individual level). Not everything needs to be aligned

Re: 2 - Yes! We have this vision for work where planning is more inclusive than top-down, and this ...goal development process is a key place to enable this

Re: 3 -- This is still an area we're optimizing our understanding around. This works best when all teams / employees are on one platform.
Hi Michael - yes, great to be connected again :)

1 - Yes, and to expand a little further; I find it useful to distinguish between "hard" and "soft" aligned OKRs. Hard being that they have a direct parent/child relationship. Soft in that the link is a little "looser' - ie. the child OKR doesn't contribute to the parent one directly, but it does point in the same direction and aligns into the overall strategic theme. I'm also not a big fan of individual OKRs, certainly not hard-aligned ones as that creates a huge management challenge every quarter when it comes to resetting. I've seen OKRs fail because of this.

3 - if there's anything I can do to help here, just shout. Completely agree; it becomes a major barrier if teams are not on the same platform!