OKR vs. KPI: What Is The Difference?

OKR vs. KPI: What Is The Difference?
Last Updated: February 1, 2024

In today's fast-paced and competitive business environment, organizations constantly look for ways to improve performance and foster an accountability culture. Unsurprisingly, firms that use continuous performance management tools are 39% better at acquiring top talent and 44% better at retaining it. (Betterworks 2020). This article will equip your team with a deep understanding of KPIs and OKRs as performance management and strategy execution tools to drive business performance. 

What is a KPI?

What exactly is a KPI? KPI is short for key performance indicators. Key performance indicators are quantitative measures used to assess the progress of an organization, department, or individual. Key performance indicators show how well a company meets its strategic objectives. Organizations utilize KPIs to evaluate their position in terms of meeting their objectives. KPIs monitor how well corporations, business units, departments, or individuals meet their strategic goals and objectives, making them a crucial part of the strategic planning process.

Examples of KPIs


KPIs can vary depending on the industry, department, and business objectives. Below is a list of KPIs classified as per field. This classification of key performance indicators is necessary otherwise.

Financial KPIs:

  • Revenue Growth Rate
  • % debtors over 30 days 
  • Net Profit Margin
  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Cost to Income Ratio
  • Sales and Marketing:
  • Lead Conversion Rate
  • Number of Leads
  • Customer Acquisition Cost 

Customer Service KPIs:

  • Customer Satisfaction Score
  • Customer Satisfaction Index
  • Net Promoter Score 
  • Customer Effort Score
  • First Response Time
  • Resolution Time
  • Customer Churn Rate

Human Resources KPIs:

  • Employee Turnover Rate
  • Employee Satisfaction Index
  • Training and Development ROI
  • Key personnel Retention
  • Employee Productivity

Operations KPIs:

  • Inventory Turnover
  • On-time Delivery Performance
  • Order Delivery Turnaround Time
  • Supplier Performance
  • Defect Rate
  • Capacity Utilisation
  • IT and Technology KPIs:
  • System Uptime 
  • Mean Time to Repair
  • Number of Incidents
  • Mean Time to Detect
  • IT Costs as a Percentage of Revenue
  • Customer Satisfaction score

Healthcare KPIs:

  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Average Length of Stay
  • Readmission Rate
  • Bed Occupancy Rate
  • Emergency Department Wait Time

Education KPIs:

  • Student Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate
  • Average Test Scores
  • Teacher-to-Student Ratio
  • Educational ROI

Non-profit KPIs:

  • Fundraising Return on Investment
  • Donor Retention Rate
  • Program Success Metrics
  • Volunteer Engagement
  • Social Impact Metrics
  • Beneficiary Satisfaction

While there are several KPIs across various fields, the important thing is always to choose KPIs that are relevant to your organization or department and in liaison with the organization's strategic goals and objectives. Above all, key performance indicators should be quantifiable and offer valuable insights into performance.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are strategic management tools for assessing how an organization is meeting organizational goals. They both serve as performance-tracking tools within an organization. While they serve distinct functions, KPIs and OKRs can all be deployed to provide a comprehensive framework for attaining goals and evaluating performance. 

What is an OKR?

OKR stands for objective and key results—specifically, an objective is linked to key results. OKRs reflect aggressive goals and outline the concrete steps you'll take to achieve them. OKRs give the critical context and direction absent from KPIs. Objectives express what you intend to accomplish, whereas Key Results show how you know you're progressing toward your goals. Unlike KPIs, OKRs can be considered leading indicators because they are tied to a future company state or impact you hope to attain.


These are broad, and they explain what you hope to achieve. Objectives should be inspirational but achievable, aligning with the organization's goals. They should be clear and inspiring. Selecting the right objective is one of the most challenging components of this practice. When done correctly, you can recognize if you have achieved it.

Key Results

These are defined, measurable outcomes that monitor your progress toward your goals. They are the deliverables you specify for every objective so you can track your progress toward accomplishing it. Each aim should yield two to five key results. All key results must be measurable. Key Results should be challenging but achievable, and they should be in line with the goal.

Examples of OKRs

Here are some examples of OKRs:

Objective: Increase customer satisfaction by 20%.

Key Results:

  • Reduce customer churn by 7%.

  • Attain a product rating score of 90%

  • Resolve customer inquiries within 24 hours on average.

Objective: Increase employee engagement

Key Results:

  • Increase the diversity and inclusion index by 10% in the next annual employee survey

  • Achieve a 20% increase in participation in voluntary engagement programs

Objective: Enhance Product Features and User Experience

Key Results:

  • Launch 3 major product feature updates based on customer feedback.

  • Achieve a 20% increase in user engagement metrics.

  • Reduce average response time for customer support tickets by 20%

Objective: Increase Brand Awareness

Key Results:

  • Achieve a 25% increase in website traffic through organic channels.

  • Gain 50,000 new followers on social media platforms.

  • Secure media coverage in at least three major industry publications.

OKRs vs KPIs: How can they work together?

Setting Goals with OKRs:

OKRs seek to establish a consistent framework that enables businesses to develop, track, and assess objectives quickly. OKRs assist individuals in aligning with an organization's overall goals. In the OKR framework, clear objectives and expected key results that enable businesses to be specific about what they want to achieve are implemented. The exact initiatives or action plans that will allow the achievement of these objectives are also put in place. This way, everyone is clear about what they are supposed to do to drive the organization's strategy. On the other hand, KPIs are specific, quantifiable metrics that help track the performance of various aspects of the organization. 

OKR vs. KPI: Alignment between OKRs and KPIs:

OKRs and KPIs should speak the same language to ensure that progress toward objectives is reflected in the KPIs. The key results within the OKR framework should correlate with the KPIs related to the specific activities or processes contributing to the overall goal. OKRs encourage teams to aim high. They are more on the ambitious side. On the other hand, KPIs provide a reality check by offering specific metrics that highlight whether or not the organization is on track to achieve its ambitions. 

Iterative and Adaptive Approach:

Both OKRs and KPIs support an observe-and-fix approach. When KPIs are moving regressively, urgent corrective measures must be implemented for goal-setting and performance management. This means that Regular reviews of OKRs and KPIs allow for adjustments based on changing circumstances, ensuring the organization remains agile and responsive.

OKR vs. KPI: Which should you choose?

Regarding OKR vs KPI, there is no right or wrong choice; it all boils down to your specific needs. First, identify your organization's desired outcomes to determine the best framework for your needs. Both OKRs and KPIs are performance management tools that can assist you in achieving your goals in various ways. The OKR framework creates goals, whereas KPIs track goal performance. OKRs are useful for establishing goals and enhancing your existing business position, whereas KPIs are intended to track overall company performance.

OKR vs KPI: What is the difference?

While OKRs and KPIs can co-exist, there are some notable differences, as explained below:

Aim and focus

OKRs provide a framework for defining your strategy plan and action plans, whereas KPIs specify how that framework will be measured. While OKRs promote alignment, ambitious goal setting, involvement, and transparency, the primary objective of KPIs is to assess the success of your entire organization and your efforts. The OKR framework requires you to specify both the objective and the metrics that will help you stay on track. On the other hand, key performance indicators are all about measuring your successes or failures; consider KPIs as indicators that you're on the right track.


OKRs are usually set for a specific timeframe, such as quarterly, yearly, or any other predefined timeframe, unlike KPIs, which can be both short-term and long-term, depending on the nature of the indicator under consideration.


OKRs are comprehensive performance management or strategy deployment tools that create multidimensional goals with a greater scope than KPIs. Conversely, KPIs are commonly used in more comprehensive methodologies like OKRs.


OKRs encourage agility and adaptation. Objectives can be adjusted if circumstances change, and Key Results can be redefined or replaced as needed. On the other hand, KPIs are generally static and well-defined within a set timeframe. They provide stability and consistency for measuring performance against pre-determined targets.

OKR vs KPI: Can you have both?

In short, KPIs and OKRs can be used together. According to Bernard Marr, OKR vs KPI is not a smart comparison because they are elements of the same picture. They naturally complement one another and collaborate to help an organization implement its strategy. OKRs are all about creating goals that motivate teams and individuals in the organization to succeed. KPIs allow teams and individuals to divide OKRs into smaller, tactical goals, providing more rapid feedback on whether they are on track to accomplish the overall OKRs. This way, KPIs and OKRs reinforce each other and remain aligned, giving teams the required vision and granularity to move the entire company forward.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with KPIs

Like any other strategic tool, KPIs come with shortfalls that you should always be on the lookout for. Below is a list of the most common mistakes to avoid when setting your KPIs.

Setting Too Many KPIs

Setting and tracking too many KPIs dilutes focus. It is not easy to pinpoint what leads to business success when too many KPIs are being tracked. It is vital to prioritize what is crucial and develop a list of manageable KPIs that provide insight into the organization's critical success factors. With too many KPIs being tracked, there is a risk of performance management becoming the work by eating into production time.

Lack of Alignment with Business Objectives

Another common danger to be on the lookout for when setting KPIs is the issue of misalignment. KPIs should directly align with the organization's strategic goals. Misaligned KPIs are misleading and also lead to a waste of resources. Imagine tracking things that do not even contribute to the overall success of your organization while using company resources.

Measuring Too Few Dimensions

A narrowly focused approach to KPI tracking can be misleading because crucial aspects of the business that may be suffering are ignored. Organizations are trapped in a situation where they have to rely on a few KPIs overly. Over-reliance on a few KPIs leads to demotivation, as employers spend time on other things that are not being tracked. 

Not Defining Clear and Specific KPIs

Key Performance Indicators should pass the famous (SMART) test. Not specific and clear KPIs will end up being misinterpreted by the custodians. Ultimately, the performance tracking process is filled with confusion, so performance is not tracked efficiently.

Ignoring Leading and Lagging Indicators

Leading indicators provide information about prospective performance, and lagging indicators reflect previous performance. A balanced combination of both categories is required for thorough performance review and proactive decision-making. Focusing on lagging indicators alone leads to late responses to things that could otherwise require urgent corrective measures.

Focusing Solely on Financial Metrics

One of the most common mistakes in most profit-making organizations is focusing only on financial KPIs when tracking the organization's performance. This leads to a biased view of the organization's performance. The balanced scorecard tool developed by Kaplan and Norton rectifies this challenge by looking at the organization's performance from four perspectives: financial, customer, internal processes, and the learning and growth perspective. The balanced scorecard is popular for challenging other performance-tracking tools.

Not Regularly Reviewing and Updating KPIs

Performance management is a very agile process. Several things within the economic environment influence performance change, sometimes even daily. KPIs should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure they remain relevant. Outdated information leads to ineffective performance tracking. 

Setting Unrealistic Targets

Unrealistic targets that are way out of reach lead to employee demotivation, for KPIs can demotivate employees and create a sense of frustration. Targets should be challenging but achievable to maintain engagement. Over-ambitious targets reduce employee morale.

Not Communicating KPIs Effectively

Clear communication is essential for KPIs to be understood and embraced across the organization. Failure to communicate the relevance and importance of KPIs may result in a lack of engagement from teams.

Ignoring Context

KPIs should be interpreted in the context of the broader business environment. Ignoring external factors or market conditions can lead to misinterpretation of performance metrics.

Not Investing in Data Quality

Data collected for KPI reporting should be uncontaminated data. Quality is of high essence when it comes to the subject at hand. Organizations should set up consistent and reliable systems to serve KPIs as data sources. Systems put in place should go through regular quality assurance checks to ensure the credibility of the information gathered.

By avoiding these common mistakes, organizations can enhance the effectiveness of their KPIs, leading to better decision-making and improved overall performance. Regular assessment, communication, and adaptation are key to successfully using KPIs.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with OKRs

Setting unattainable OKRs

Setting overly ambitious goals might easily lead to another OKR stumble. If your OKRs are unrealistic, your team may encounter challenges such as immediately identifying the objective as unattainable; thus, they do not put in the effort from the start and become demotivated. To avoid this, develop goals that are ideally based on historical performance data. Be patient and give the OKRs time to show you their impact. As with any new procedure, the team will take time to implement OKRs and become accustomed to them.

Failure to establish alignment among teams

Teams frequently pursue their goals without addressing the larger company objectives or the ambitions of other teams. Silos arise, various work directions emerge, and cross-team collaboration becomes challenging. Team OKRs should always be aligned with the larger business objectives first.

Creating Too Many OKRs

Focusing on too many objectives can be less productive. Your team may struggle to manage their workload, reducing their capacity to focus. Try to limit your focus to 3 to 5 goals per quarter. This allows your teams to focus on an achievable set of goals.

Not assigning accountability

Without direct accountability, there is a culture of finger-pointing and shifting blame, with no satisfactory outcomes. When creating OKRs, always specify who will be accountable and responsible for tracking them.

Not continuously reviewing progress

Check-ins are often forgotten but are likely the most critical component of OKR success. Failure to do so may result in errors and discrepancies remaining unnoticed. Breaking down the ultimate results into smaller percentages that may be strived at and tracked frequently is a good idea.

Setting unmeasurable OKRs

OKRs cannot be managed unless they are measurable. Break down your key results into measurable units for easy progress tracking.

Chido Madzogo & Tiffany Maruva
This article was written by Chido Madzogo & a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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