Aspirational OKRs vs Committed OKRs: The Differences

By on November 3, 2022

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results – a framework that helps organizations of all sizes manage their goals. It isn’t a highly complex tool to implement and begins with setting organizational goals that filter down the line to individual goals. The process is transparent and clear, allowing teams within the organization to align the results so that employees are invested in the organization’s success. 

OKRs can be of various types: committed, aspirational, and learning.

Committed OKRs, in the very simplest of terms, are the goals defined by the company that must be achieved.

Aspirational OKRs encourage us to think big, aim high, and aspire to be more and do more.

Learning OKRs follow hypotheses to be proven or disproved and encourage studies, experiments, and evaluations. have 

This article will focus on the differences between Aspirational OKRs and Committed OKRs.

What do committed OKRs and aspirational OKRs mean? 

Committed OKRs are the common goals to be achieved at the different levels in your company. They are goals your teams are familiar with and know what’s needed to succeed. They are realistic targets and are therefore expected to be completed in totality. If these are not 100% achieved, teams have performed below par, and objectives have not been fulfilled.

Aspirational OKRs are set one or several levels higher. They are also called ‘moonshots’ or ’10x goals’. They are meant to take the organization where it will be in the future. The path to achieving these goals may not be well-defined and is drawn as the journey unfolds. The resources required to meet these goals are also not qualified. Since these OKRs encourage employees to think big and think differently, it is presupposed that these goals will not be achieved 100%. A 70% to 80% achievement is accepted as a job well done. 

Aspirational OKRs and Committed OKRs – Key Differences

Aspirational OKRs and Committed OKRs  - Key Differences
Aspirational OKRsCommitted OKRs
Moon shotsRoof shots 
Minimum 70% achievement is considered a huge success100% achievement expected – nothing less is considered a success
Actions to be taken are not well-defined and are decided based on progress madeActions to be taken towards the goal are clear and well-defined
Are defined based on future goals and ambitionsAre defined to achieve the standard and typical business results

Aspirational OKRs are ambitious, bold, and may even seem unattainable! They are visionary and attempt to achieve goals that haven’t been achieved before. The reason for aspirational OKRs is to encourage people to push boundaries.

Having never been achieved before, it’s not practical or possible to have an exact strategy to achieve aspirational OKRs. Resources for these OKRs are also not assigned and are determined as progress is made.

By definition, aspirational OKRs are visionary, almost mythical! So, taking them on and trying to achieve them is a feat in itself! Failing to accomplish the goal in totality is accepted and expected! The effort is considered, and the progress is celebrated. 

Committed OKRs leave less room for failure. They are the ‘must-do’ items on a company’s to-do list. They are set in a way that demands a focus on matters of importance in the company’s day-to-day business. 

When evaluated, committed OKRs are expected to be achieved 100%. Since these OKRs are closely aligned with the overall organizational goals, different options, information or resources may be allocated to reach the goal. If a team or department struggles to achieve the OKRs set, they are expected to escalate this immediately. 

Committed and Aspirational OKR examples

When setting Committed OKRs, companies are confident and convinced that they will be achieved. But even so, departments and teams need to find ways to contribute to achieving these OKRs. 

If OKRs are constantly being achieved with no ‘stretch,’ they are too easy and need to be revised. They need to impact the business; they are intended to challenge individuals to be creative and think of ways to achieve goals.

For example, let’s take an organization that wants to improve its work culture. A Committed OKR example would be:

Objective: To improve the work culture within the company 

KR1: Conduct quarterly one-on-ones with each team member – to better understand their circumstances, motivations, and ambitions

KR2: Increase positive feedback in anonymous surveys conducted from 65% to 80%

KR3: 30% increase in referrals from current employees

It isn’t challenging to achieve this OKR. A plan of action can be clearly defined to perform each key result and, ultimately, the Objective. Resources can be allocated accordingly. Achievement of the OKR would bring about a definite improvement in company culture.

Building on this, an Aspirational OKR example for the same company could be to offer a choice of hybrid work to all employees. 

Here, the Objective is undoubtedly ambitious! This is a massive undertaking. 

You know instinctively and broadly what steps need to be taken, e.g., define what work needs to be done on-site and what can effectively be completed remotely, find out what resources employees need to work virtually off-site, describe plans for each department to ensure that it’s never wholly unmanned onsite, etc. But no one knows what this will entail putting into practice till the exercise begins. Resource allocation is also a primary unknown parameter, as is the time it will take to achieve this visionary objective.

It’s doubtful that this objective will be achieved 100%. It could be because specific departments cannot function effectively using a hybrid working model. It could also be because some employees prefer to work 100% onsite or 100% remotely. 

In this aspirational OKR example, the goal is challenging and, in a way, exquisite! But if everyone in the company can be enthused to contribute their ideas and passion for making this happen, there will be some progress. 

How do you decide between Committed OKRs and Aspirational OKRs?

If you’re struggling with Committed v/s Aspirational OKRs, this section may help you decide. 

If you’re starting with the OKR process, Committed OKRs are what you need. If you are in this stage, you may want to read about adopting OKRs for your business

They set the tone for success, not just for the company but by design for every employee. Owing to the clarity this process provides and its transparency, achieving every goal is apparent to all employees, who understand how their contributions boost the company’s success.

This contributes to high morale, a sense of combined achievement, and the overall work culture’s excellence. 

If Committed OKRs have been a part of your company’s strategy for some time now and it has been successfully implemented and is working well, you could introduce Aspirational OKRs.

At this point, your teams would probably be more open to accepting challenging and bold goals. It could create excitement and enthusiasm to try something new and different, especially challenging them to think unconventionally!

Are Aspirational OKRs right for your organization?

Before choosing Aspirational OKRs for your organization, you need to assess what’s currently happening with the systems and processes you have in place and how your teams are functioning. 

If there’s a lot of confusion about prioritizing goals and setting key results to meet the defined objectives, or if departmental or team goals are not aligned with organizational goals, your organization is not ready for Aspirational OKRs. 

A good indicator is also how cohesive the teams are. If individuals are not encouraged to participate and are not involved in the process, you need to manage this challenge first. 

Common mistakes to avoid while setting up aspirational OKRs

If your organization has all the parameters that make introducing Aspirational OKRs right, then make sure you avoid these common pitfalls during implementation.

Mistakes to avoid while setting up Aspirational OKRs
  • Take time to introduce the process in small steps so that your employees get used to the idea of Aspirational OKRs. Expecting them to just run with the procedure may cause it to fail even before it’s given a solid chance. 
  • Start with one or two Aspirational OKRs. Having too many introduced at one time may cause overwhelm and loss of focus. 
  • Although Aspirational OKRs are ambitious and grand, they must be broken down into actionable steps. This way, progress (or lack thereof) can be monitored; the course can be altered or changed.
  • Be careful when implementing Aspirational OKRs and the message about their achievement. Everyone needs to be on board with 100% effort toward the best possible result. If they think it’s ‘ok’ to get close to 70%, that might determine their action.
  • Aspirational OKRs will most likely not be achieved in one cycle. So expectations should be set accordingly. But parameters must also be defined to pull the plug as needed.

Both Committed OKRs and Aspirational OKRs have their places and benefits. Most often, you may not even need to choose between one or the other and can use a combination of the two. 

Indicating a goal or OKR to be committed or aspirational depends on how much effort needs to be expended in achieving them. 

If you think a goal or Objective will take several OKR cycles, it’s most likely aspirational. The objective may remain static, with unachieved or unrealized key results being carried forward. 

When it appears that the OKR is becoming more achievable or tangible, it can be labeled a Committed OKR and treated as such. This is the sign that what was once an Aspirational OKR has almost been achieved! 

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