Summary
A healthy OKR practice requires CFRs: Conversation, Feedback, and Recognition. Discover why using OKRs with CFRs can transform your goal-setting performance from “set them and forget them” to moving from idea to execution.


In Measure What Matters, John Doerr introduces the siblings to Objectives and Key Results: Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition – CFRs for short.

In the past, performance management has often been relegated to annual reviews, missing the opportunity for timely adjustments. Today, many organizations are moving towards more modern approaches such as Continuous Performance Management. A culture of ongoing dialogue increases the chances of achieving your goals, and CFRs frame these important dialogues. When CFRs support OKRs, you become a learning organization – one that constantly and continually improves.

Definition of CFRs

So, what exactly are CFRs? Think of them as the set of your daily interactions for OKR success.

Here’s a simple breakdown:

Conversations are communications about work; progress, tactics, and potential bottlenecks.

Feedback closes the gap between current actions and intentions; improving or changing performance or behaviors.

Recognition is positive, real-time acknowledgement for small or large wins, reinforcing what’s working and expressing appreciation.

Effective CFRs include goal-setting, ongoing progress updates and reflection, utilizing specific, actionable, and constructive feedback.

What’s the difference between OKRs and CFRs?

CFRs and OKRs complement each other, linking goals to a team’s broader mission and strategies. The Objectives describe what you want to accomplish, and the Key Results describe how you know you’ve succeeded.

When CFRs are ongoing, they help you navigate your OKRs. A weekly OKR check-in meeting that includes all three elements of CFRs also leaves people with more satisfaction and clarity about daily work and direction.

To better understand how CFRs and OKRs work together, imagine a soccer team’s Objectives as the goal lines – the targets. The Key Results are the yard markers that measure progress towards each goal. But to truly excel, every team needs more than markers and goal lines. They need communication: Cs, Fs, and Rs. These are the huddles, the line coaching, half-time pep talks – all the interactions that allow the team to adjust in real-time, and even continue in post-game analyses and victory celebrations. It takes all these kinds of communication to win a game or a season, and for teams to become great.

Next, we’ll look at each individual component of CFRs.

OKRs and CFRs: conversations to drive teams forward

Let’s begin with the ‘C’ in CFRs. Conversations are the back-and-forth about OKR progress. They are dialogues that happen in team meetings and one-on-ones.

Conversations about OKRs should happen throughout the cycle. Start check-ins and meetings by tracking how your OKR(s) are progressing. Here are some basic questions to cover in your conversations:

  • What’s the status of your OKRs?
  • Has there been any progress on your OKRs?
  • What’s changed since the last time we talked?
  • Is there anything blocking an OKR’s success?

Remember to keep a nonjudgmental tone. This helps create a culture of transparency and high performance. Then ask, “What help do you need?”

These important conversations are how we move forward – together.

OKRs and CFRs: tips for giving feedback

Now let’s talk about Feedback, the second component of CFRs. Feedback helps bridge the gap between intention and action. It begins with the question, “How can we increase our chances of success?” Use the answer as a powerful opportunity to draw from your own experience to coach, train, and guide your teams to achieve their OKRs.

Feedback needs to be specific and constructive, turning potential failures into opportunities. When offering suggestions, be specific and action-oriented.

Rephrase complaints as constructive requests. Instead of “That presentation could have been better,” say: “The next time you pitch, try to present more slowly and make time for the audience to ask questions.”

Feedback gives employees an opportunity to ask supervisors: “What do you need from me to be successful?” And an equal opportunity to follow up with, “Now let me tell you what I need from you.”

Lastly, make feedback timely. Don’t wait until the end of the cycle or an annual review. Real-time feedback allows people to adjust their approach before they’ve gone too far in the wrong direction.

OKRs and CFRs: why recognition matters

Recognition is positive acknowledgement about what’s working at that moment – and for expressing appreciation. Recognize success along the way, no matter how small. Every act affirms behaviors and boosts morale.

Recognition can come from leaders, and it can also be peer-to-peer, helping those who aren’t as visible to management.

Be specific when giving recognition, and go beyond a simple thank you. For example: “The summary you sent after our last meeting was so clearly written that it helped everyone on the team understand the challenge better. Thank you.”

Like conversations and feedback – give recognition frequently. Don’t wait for a formal ceremony or performance review. Doing it in the moment creates alignment and builds morale.

What is continuous recognition?

What are good CFR questions to ask your team?

CFRs are driven by insightful questions that ensure alignment and clarity.

For ongoing Conversation and Feedback, try asking:

  • What specific challenges are you facing with your OKRs?
  • How do these challenges affect your ability to meet Key Results?
  • What support do you need to overcome these challenges?

Conclusion

CFRs (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are complementary tools. When used together, they build a culture of transparency, agility and ongoing improvements to any organization. Use them to guide you from idea to action and reach your organizational goals.

Where can I find more OKR and CFR resources?

Have you implemented CFRs them with OKRs yet? Let us know and be sure to check out our Past Discussions, FAQs, [Resources] and (https://whatmatters.com/resources).

Learn about OKR wins and fails – and everything in between – from these inspiring real-world Stories.

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