How to Choose the Right OKR Tracking Tool for Your Organization

Weigh your org’s size, start simple, test and tweak from there

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Hey folks, 

I’ve been deep in book mode with Josh this month, working through final edits, sending it to reviewers, creating a free companion workbook—all the exciting steps leading up to our launch in April. Yes, April! Pre-orders will be available on Amazon within days. Get ready to get really good at OKRs. If you haven’t yet, check out our new OKR book landing page, too. 

Keeping on the OKR train, one thing we talk about in the book is the tools you need to be effective using OKRs. Tools are pretty important, but you don’t need anything crazy to get started. In today’s article, I dive into the tools organizations specifically need for tracking their OKRs. Bottom line: Start small and easy, and test your options before moving up.

Do you use a different tool than the ones I mention? Reply to this email and let me know.

- Jeff

Article: How to Choose the Right OKR Tracking Tool for Your Organization

If you’re going to invest the time, energy, and resources into adopting a new way of working, you want it to be effective. Well, for OKRs to be effective, they need to be tracked. But it’s not as simple as having each team track their own OKRs in their own little silos. Every single team needs to track their OKRs in a manner and location that’s easy to use and accessible to everyone in the organization. 

So how do you do that? Like most things, it depends. In this case, it depends on the size of your organization and what level of OKR maturity and understanding you have. Below, I share three tools, broken down by those key factors, that you can consider using with your teams.

First up: Spreadsheets.

1. Spreadsheets

Surprised to see such a simple tool on the list? Spreadsheets may be simple, but they’re powerful, too. 

  • Who should use spreadsheets with OKRs? Small companies, and/or those with low OKR maturity and comfort

  • Why are they good for OKRs? They’re easy to use, fast to set up, and readily shareable. Plus, there are numerous templates at your fingertips. Everyone knows how to put numbers into a spreadsheet, so teams don’t need to spend time learning a new tool.

  • What are the drawbacks? They don’t scale. But you probably guessed that. If your organization grows, or you start scaling OKRs out to more teams, you’re going to need a more sophisticated tool. Spreadsheets are the starter package.

Example Template: To help you out, I created a template OKR spreadsheet you can use or model yours after. 

2. Kanbans / Trello Boards

Kanban-style tools—I use Trello boards—are the next step up in tracking tools. Other brands beyond Trello? Monday, ClickUp, Airtable, Notion, Confluence, Basecamp, to name a few.

  • Who should use Trello boards with OKRs? Mid-size organizations, larger teams who need a shared OKR workspace, teams who’ve been using OKRs for a while and are comfy with the basics

  • Why are they good for OKRs? Trello and kanban-style boards are made for teams to work in them together. It’s a shared environment automatically, and everyone can have access to it. They’re also easy to update and, at least in my opinion, visually easier to follow and customize. You can assign specific tasks to specific team members and track accountability, in addition to results and progress.

  • What are the drawbacks? While Trello boards scale to a degree, they don’t work well for massive corporations with big networks of teams working across each other because they can’t capture too many layers of complexity.

Example Template: I created a template OKR Trello board you can use as a model.

3. WorkBoard / Enterprise-Level Strategy Execution Platforms

If you’re Goldilocks trying to figure out the right OKR-tracking tool for your organization, think of WorkBoard as the Papa Bear–sized tool.

  • Who should use WorkBoard with OKRs? Large organizations/corporations that need to connect lots of overlapping teams across business units, and those with a good level of OKR proficiency

  • Why is it good for OKRs? WorkBoard allows for the complexity that tools like Trello and spreadsheets just can’t accommodate. It gives teams at all levels the ability to track their own progress while also being able to see other teams’ progress and how their work is affecting each other. WorkBoard also integrates with common reporting and productivity tools, which makes teams more likely to keep it up-to-date. Finally, WorkBoard has already done the work to ensure its platform is OKR-enabled for users. 

What are the drawbacks? Teams need to learn how to use the tool and make it a part of their day to day. Training and uptake can take time (and patience).

Start small, test first

Tools can be effective and help us improve our OKRs and how we use them, as I shared in the last newsletter. But organizations shouldn’t rush to build yet another product, tool, or system into their workflow. Instead, use a standard OKR principle (and a lean one for that matter), and test things out first. Start light, with just a spreadsheet and a small number of folks first. Get a sense for what your organization needs from your tracking tool, where you need it and when. Then, use the evidence gathered from testing the smaller/lighter tool to scale up to a more robust tool when it’s manageable and makes sense for your team. Essentially, treat it as an experiment. Ask, What’s the lightest tool we can use right now to get started? Grow from there.

Mileage may vary

I’ve broken things down Goldilocks-style, but your organization’s situation and needs might not fit neatly into one of these categories. You may be a small organization with a long history of OKRs and a need for a more complex tool than simple spreadsheets. You may be a mid-size corporation scaling up your OKRs but realize that you need to start every team new to OKRs with spreadsheets to build comfort and maturity. There are tools that fit in between these categories as well. With any tool you use, stick to the rule above: start small, test first. Do what makes the most sense for your team and your organization based on the data you have.

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