Generally speaking, company-level OKRs will not be adjusted during the quarter. But, please welcome back our old friend, “It depends.” There may be circumstances that demand a change in OKRs. One of us was working with the State of New Jersey just prior to Hurricane Sandy devastating parts of the state. In the weeks and months following the disaster, copious changes were made to their performance monitoring systems, reflecting the new reality faced by the many government departments required to provide services.
We’re not suggesting, however, that a natural disaster is necessary to make modifcations to your OKRs (at any level of the company) during a quarter. There are many other possibilities as well. For example: Perhaps you acquired a major new customer who initially demands intense resources from your teams. That could warrant the alteration of your current crop of OKRs. Or, you may decide to make a strategic pivot, which of course would dictate an update to the OKRs as well. What you cannot do is change objectives or key results simply because you feel they are too difficult, or you may have doubts about their efficacy.
Each quarter that you use OKRs, you’re building a muscle, one that grows stronger as you introduce the discipline of setting, monitoring, grading, and most importantly learning from what the key results have to tell you. Frequent alterations of OKRs during the quarter may be dressed up as “agility” or adaptive behavior, and in some situations that may be true. But, in most cases it’s simply an unwillingness to commit to the rigor and discipline necessary to strive for better and better OKRs that push the frontiers of knowledge about what really drives your business.
Excerpt taken from Objectives and Key Results written by Paul Niven and Ben Lamorte.