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Implementing OKRs in Startups: A Guide for Small Businesses

Updated: February 24, 2022

Setting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can keep companies focused and stay aligned on common goals. While they have become the best practice when it comes to managing teams in almost any business, it can be challenging to implement, particularly for companies that haven’t reached product-market fit.



For companies just starting out, their leadership teams tend to have a large number of metrics. They also likely confuse objectives with tasks and initiatives. As a result, they usually fail to achieve focus and clarity. If this sounds familiar, no need to worry. Keep reading to learn more about implementing OKRs.


What Are the Benefits of OKRs?

OKRs are used to keep track of the team’s progress by separating the qualitative goals from the quantitative results. They are built on S.M.A.R.T. objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-frame).

Making OKRs part of the organisation increases motivation and engagement among employees. By setting clear objectives, leaders are prevented from trying to do the work themselves. It also makes sure all team members are working towards the same goal. Most importantly, it clarifies what matters most to the company.


How Should Startups Adapt OKRs?

Before implementing OKRs, startups need to make sure they align with their current best practices. This is because OKRs have to serve as an extension of the existing agile process. When executed properly, they can make processes more effective. Here are some ways to adapt them at an early-stage company:


A. Identify the Most Important Metric

Each product has to attract potential customers or build a loyal customer base. To achieve this, it’s wise to focus on one metric that matters most, depending on the stage of the startup. Doing this forms the company-wide OKRs.

Here are the different stages of a startup:

  • Stage 1: Empathy
  • Stage 2: Stickiness
  • Stage 3: Virality
  • Stage 4: Revenue
  • Stage 5: Scale


B. Change the Defaults

OKR-planning must take place regularly. Usually, each objective needs an average of 3-4 results. But since startups have rapidly changing assumptions and fewer team members, it’s advisable to reduce the total number of objectives and the timeframe.


C. Consider OKRs as Customer End-States

When implementing OKRs, many startups make the common mistake of making tasks for objectives or key results instead of end-states. However, companies need to prioritise their customers and their team. This is why every OKR must serve either of them at every level.


How Do Startups Set Goals without an Established Baseline?

It’s common for startups to get stuck at the beginning of implementing OKRs. This is especially true if they don’t have access to data and historical trends. In this case, it’s best to not worry about perfection. There will always be uncertainties when setting goals, which is why it’s acceptable to use the best guess.



As a standard across teams, OKRs are used as a powerful tool to maximise impact across the board. While goal-setting can be especially difficult for startups, this challenge should not be a reason for them to stick to regular sprint planning and give OKRs up.

Get started with ,OKR by getting in touch with SKILLFIRE. If you’re keen to start with your team sooner rather than later, we have some training which will help:

We create a transformative moment by helping you understand your company culture, monitor your progress, and give you a lasting competitive advantage. If you are ready to grow your business or have any questions relating to OKR feel free to reach out to experienced OKR consultants and OKR facilitators.