Committed vs. Aspirational OKRs: What's the Difference?

Committed vs. Aspirational OKRs: What's the Difference?

by Sam Prince


Published on 03.28.2019

When it comes to OKRs, there are two types of goals: committed or aspirational. They both serve different purposes and have separate ways that they can be read, interpreted, and acted upon.

Committed OKRs are just that: commitments. They are things that an individual, team, or organization has agreed will be achieved. Resources and schedules should be adjusted to make sure they get done. When graded, the expected score for a committed OKR is 1.0. A lower score requires a discussion, as it shows opportunities to adjust/improve in planning and/or execution.

Aspirational OKRs, on the other hand, are how we’d like the world to look. They are sometimes called 10x goals or “moonshots.” As Measure What Matters states, “When you aim for the stars, you may come up short but still reach the moon.” With aspirational OKRs, there is no clear path to get there—and no real knowledge of what resources will be required. They may also roll over from quarter to quarter, or year to year. Sometimes, they may even be reassigned to different teams.

The expected average score of an aspirational OKR is 0.7, but with lots of room for variance.

So, what are some things to watch out for when creating committed and aspirational OKRs?

First and foremost, make sure your OKRs are clearly defined as either committed or aspirational when written. Just like regular OKRs, transparency is key. Marking a committed OKR as aspirational increases its chance of failure. Marking an aspirational OKR as committed propagates defensiveness and can disrupt workflow.

A common pitfall for writing committed OKRs is writing a Low-Value Objective (LVO), also known as a “Who cares?” OKR. It’s an objective that, even if it is completed, will go unnoticed because it has no impact. All OKRs should be phrased to have a tangible benefit.

Alternatively, a common pitfall for aspirational OKRs is to write something like, “What could we do if we had extra staff and got a bit lucky?” Instead, pretend you're a genie and ask yourself, “What do my customers really wish for?” Your aspirational OKR should meet or exceed their wish, with the understanding that you’re not going to know how to achieve this.

As for resources, a team’s committed OKRs should use up most but not all of their available resources. When aspirational OKRs are added to the mix, resources should be overused. If for any reason these OKRs can be completed without using every team member, this means that both the committed and aspirational OKRs should not have been implemented in the first place. They did not pass the litmus test.

To summarize, a committed OKR must deliver a 1.0 and is cycle-based. An aspirational OKR is more fluid but still focuses on direction.

Are you using committed and aspirational OKRs? We’d love to hear from you about them. Reach out and let us know here and be sure to check out all the other FAQs, Stories, and Resources right here on WhatMatters.com.


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