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The 5 main benefits of Initiatives within the OKR framework

Sep 25, 2023

Here is a heads up - we think Initiatives might just be the most important part of OKRs. OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. While this would make you think there are only 2 parts to the method, there are actually 4: 

  1. The North Star 

  2. Objectives 

  3. Key Results 

  4. Initiatives


The OKR Framework

In this article, we want to discuss Initiatives: the things you will do to make progress towards your goals. Definitely a case of last but not least if you ask us: because defining good initiatives is exactly what will give your organization fast executional power. And in the end, execution is what makes an organization win.

First, let’s remember:

Key Results → are outcomes. 

Initiatives → are tasks.

As a company, what you really care about is outcomes. Tasks are a way to get to those outcomes. NOT the other way around. Here is an example: 

Imagine you are trying to sell 100 USD worth of make-up products via your website (Key Results). One of the tasks you came up with for this is to make 5 Facebook posts (Initiative). 

  • If you would sell 100 USD with 3 Facebook posts - would you be happy? YES! Because you reached your desired outcome, even though you did not complete all your tasks. In fact: you should be extra happy, because you got the outcome you wanted with less work (100 USD sales with 3 instead of 5 Facebook posts). 

  • If you would make 5 Facebook posts, but only sell 50 USD - would you still be happy? NO! Because even though you did all your tasks, you did not get the outcome you wanted. 

This is why it is important to distinguish between tasks (Initiatives) and outcomes (Key Results). 

Now the fact that you ultimately want the outcome, does not mean that Initiatives are not important. Initiatives are what eventually will lead you to the outcomes, and therefore they might be the most important part of OKRs


Five benefits of setting good Initiatives

Here is what good initiatives do: 

  1. Give your execution rocket power:

    Ever been in a meeting where you discussed what to do for the 100x something time? We have all been there. It works incredibly liberating to curb that discussion to once per quarter when you set the initiatives: this gives you the time and opportunity to to focus on execution of those tasks during the rest of the quarter.

  2. Help to test what works

    You never know for sure if any of the things you do will book progress on your Key Results. So what works best is seeing Initiatives as hypotheses: I believe that if I do Y, X will improve. When taking up an initiative for the next quarter, you make a decision to dedicate a significant amount of effort in really trying to make this a success. Once the initiative is executed well, evaluate it as a test. Did it have the results you were hoping for? Did you move the needle on the Key Result? 

  3. Empower smart team members

    You don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, but to tell you what to do, Steve Jobs once said.  When you set Objectives and Key Results, Initiatives are a great way for employees to come up with the best way to get to your desired destination.


  4. Help prioritize tasks

    You and your team probably have a 100 ideas on what you could be doing, while resources are always limited. Discussions on prioritizing those ideas can be difficult. Using the Key Results to prioritize initiatives is a really helpful way to settle those discussions. Ask yourself: which initiative is the most likely to move my Key Result forward? Those are exactly the ones you should be focussing on! 

  5. Push for innovative ideas

    When you are not booking any progress on your Key Results, you are forced to think of new, innovative ways to get to where you want to go. Initiatives are therefor a great way to set innovative ideas.

Are you looking to see how we can support you with the implementation of OKRs? Have a look at our OKR training & coaching programs and feel free to get in touch!