When it comes to OKR methodology there are two types of goals one can set – committed or aspirational OKRs. Committed OKRs are ones that your organization or team has agreed to execute and might have a clear action plan for achieving. Aspirational OKRs are more visionary and likely won’t get completed 100%, but they are important for moving towards the future.
While just defining these types of goals is easy enough it doesn’t give you a real picture of the difference between them. You need to think about when you should choose one type of OKR over another. In many cases, you will even combine them together. This article will go over the differences between Committed and Aspirational OKRs and provide examples of each. We will also give you some insight into which will work best for you and your team.
If you are just starting with OKRs and this seems a bit much, you can get started by learning the basics of OKR methodology.
A Committed OKR should be achieved by 100%. The success of a Committed Objective is critical to the success of the company or team. The outcomes of these Objectives should push you to be better, but they should still be achievable. Committed Objectives describe business-as-usual and the Key-Results should be reflective of expected measurable outcomes. Committed Key Results are often considered roof shot goals where 100% progress is expected.
It’s important to remember that even though Committed OKRs are more like business-as-usual, they still are still goals! This means a Committed Objective isn’t a target like the number of client meetings or calls month-to-month. A target is usually the expected level of performance that is needed to keep the company going. OKRs are all about having Growth, going trough some needes Changes, having Innovation, etc. They are pushing the Company to have better results.
Committed Key Results
Even though KPI / Metric targets and OKRs aren't the same things then your KPI's / Metrics can become your OKRs in some situations. First, if your KPI / Metric target hasn't been met and it's starting to cause a problem. You probably need to have some improvements to restore its historical level. The second situation might be that you have decided that you just need to improve some KPIs / Metrics to achieve some of your Objectives.
For example, one of the KPIs in your company is Net Promote Score (NPS) and it has a target of 50. Now, this is something that you should keep an eye on, but you can expect to hit the target by just doing your day-to-day job well. It shows you the health of the company and if it's good, it doesn't require any extra action.
Now let's say you are starting to see a drop below your usual target. You might have a problem and you want to improve the situation. To solve this you might set an Objective to improve the NPS. NPS will now be your team's central focus. Once you have set an OKR you will also want to set Plans that help you to drive the NPS back above 50. Once you achieve your Objective and get your score back to 50, it will become just a KPI / Metric to keep an eye on again. From there it's time to improve or change something else in the Company. You might have many different KPIs / Metrics that show you how your company is doing but you should choose only a few and most important OKRs to work on and drive the focus to for the quarter.
(Learn more about the difference between OKRs and KPIs.)
Committed OKR Example
Having an Objective means that your team needs to put your heads together and think of various ways to achieve it. If later the Objective is achieved by doing what you usually do, then the Objective lacks drive. You should rethink it by testing new ideas or doing changes to the work culture.
Committed OKRs may also focus on making necessary changes in the company as well. For example, you have internal communication processes in place but the information still goes missing or moves too slowly, which has led people to feel frustrated. That’s a sign that you need to rethink your internal communication process and you need to get it working well. You could set an OKR like this:
- O: Improve internal communication process
- KR1: 80% of employees have answered to the communication survey
- KR2: Analyze results and choose 5 top improvement areas to execute
- KR3: Interview 40 employees; 35 of them should confirm that they have seen an improvement
Once Committed Objectives are achieved within the quarter then usually new ones are set for the next quarter. If you keep having the same OKR quarter after a quarter then you are may just be measuring KPIs and not setting Objectives.
If a Committed OKR was realistic and needs to be achieved around 100% then Aspirational OKRs are the lofty and ambitious Objectives where 100% completion is likely impossible. Aspirational Objectives should be set with very high bars. Achieving these OKRs brings huge success, but the risk of failing is high as well. Usually, 66-70% progress achievement can be called a success already. But you have to be careful. While these goals should be just out of reach, it’s important that people would still take them seriously and aim for the highest progress possible. If 66% becomes the new 100% in people's minds, nobody will push hard enough.
Aspirational Key Results
Aspirational OKRs are also called moonshots. Like the term implies, it’s about aiming high. What you measure with the Key Results can be the same for Committed or Aspirational OKRs, but how big the stretch is will define which type of goal it is.
For example, a sales team committed OKR might be:
- O: Expand to the German market
- KR1: Close first 5 enterprise customers
- KR2: Achieve sales circle average (from lead to closed) of 27 days
- KR3: 15% increase of Q1 revenue for the German Market
To make it Aspirational we could make it look like this:
- O: Expand to the German market and start taking over the market
- KR1: Get 10 big customers to change over to our product over competitors
- KR2: Achieve sales circle average (from leads to closed) of 15 days
- KR3: 20% increase of Q1 revenue for the German Market
Both examples cover expanding the Company and entering into the German market. The difference between the two examples is that the Committed one is more realistic and completion of all the Key Results is necessary to call the venture a success. The aspiring example is aiming high, their goal is not just to successfully enter the market but also to start taking over the market. That one is a lot harder, almost even impossible to achieve in such a short timeframe.
As succeeding with Aspirational OKRs might be very challenging, team or company-wide readiness is very important. The company has to be open to testing new ideas, failing, trying again, and learning from the process. Also, before setting Aspirational OKRs, your resources should be evaluated. There’s no point in setting high OKRs if you don’t have the time or manpower to work on them weekly. With any type of OKRs, you should consider and record your weekly initiatives towards them.
You are Software as a Service (SaaS) company and you have different features in your product. Feature X isn’t performing as you would like and you can see that it is harmful for the overall reputation of the product. Only 10% of the users use the feature and you get many complaints about it. You have tried to do some small changes, but the maximum use case has been 12%. You want to improve the feature to avoid negative responses and you also know that value but it’s not comprehensive right now. If the potential customers could see the value it could actually bring in more revenue as well.
From there, your product team sets an Objective “Improve feature X” and one of moonshot Key Results is “Feature usage increased from 10% to 35%”. As I mentioned before 12% has been the highest before so 35% is a really high bar! The product team doesn't even know if it’s doable but they are ready to put in the effort and try to achieve it. Even getting the usage up to 15% would be a great success, but hitting the 35% could make the product a lot more valuable. This would have a noticeable effect on company revenue!
What’s the healthy relationship between Committed and Aspirational OKRs?
Committed Objectives are the best to start with while implementing the OKR methodology. By changing the way you are thinking about your existing goals, it makes it easier to form a new habit for people in the company. Becoming a result-driven company needs time, discipline, and changes in how people and management thinking. First, your focus should be on adapting the methodology and setting up the necessary process around it. Read about the best practice weekly OKR process in here.
If you would start with too many Aspirational OKRs then people can feel easily overwhelmed. Everyone needs to adopt this new habit and then the goals are already set so high. It’s just too much to handle. Once your company is more used to the OKR methodology you can start by setting some Aspirational OKR’s or just some Key Results.
As mentioned above both the whole OKR or just one Key Result under each Objective can be Aspirational. That means you either have a whole goal with all the results aiming high or you have a goal where some results are committed and easier to achieve and some are aiming higher. The exact number of the Aspirational Objectives you should have depends on your company's resources but remember, the less you have the stronger the focus and chance of achieving success. It important is to have regular check-ins and reviews to collect the feedback and use it while setting Objectives for the next quarter.
When it comes down to choosing between Committed and Aspirational Objectives, a lot depends on what you and your team and Company are trying to achieve. Both have their unique use cases and work well in tandem. If you are looking to get some more inspiration about what your OKRs could look like, we suggest visiting okrexamples.co. When you are ready to start setting your own this video should help: