The Difference Between OKRs and KPIs

Written by Dave Bailey

Filed under management scale-up

People discussing OKRs and KPIs

Which you use depends on your use-case.

OKRs (objectives and key results) have become so popular that they’re quickly becoming interchangeable with their sister acronym, KPIs (key performance indicators).

I know you aren’t confusing these terms, but just in case you have a colleague who is, here’s a useful distinction.

1) OKRs are for new initiatives

When you’re building something new, you want an inspiring and ambitious objective along with a clear measurement of success. When it comes to objectives and key results, aim for as small a set as possible to increase focus. For example, if you have a team of 25 people and over 100 key results, something may have gone wrong.

2) KPIs are for ‘business as usual’

If you’re monitoring something that already exists, rather than building something new, that’s where KPIs come in — they provide transparency. Customer support response times? That’s a KPI. Number of sales calls? That’s a KPI too.

Put simply, OKRs = build and KPIs = maintain. Some teams, such as product teams, use OKRs a lot. Other teams, such as customer support, prefer KPIs. That’s cool — just because OKRs are a hammer, it doesn’t make every team a nail.

Originally published June 2, 2023, updated Apr 8, 2024

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