The Limits of Your Language is The Limits of Your OKRs

David Nour
David Nour

I often meet passionate, profound, intense, and dominating leaders. To focus their efforts and measure their progress on a continuum, they use OKRs – Objectives and Key Results. Their fundamental challenge lies in the limitations of their language.

Philosophy of language


In the OKR world, a lot of terminologies are thrown around: goal, objective, purpose, result, outcome, output, task, activity, project, BAU, KPI, CSF, NC, etc. The fundamental challenge is that many leaders and their teams use these terms interchangeably, often meaning the same thing. When in fact, they’re not! 

As such, the limits in their language are limiting their world. Having arrived in this country without proficiency in the English language, what I’ve learned is that the language we know, understand, and speak really defines how we think, act, and behave. All those elements define our world. 

So, let’s dig deeper into the connection between the language and the OKR methodology.

OKR Terminolgy

Let’s clarify the language the Objective helps you achieve your goals – it provides a context for what we want to accomplish. Then you have a few Key Results for each Objective plus a few 

So, what happened with SMART goals, where ‘A’ stands for achievable/attainable? SMART in many organizations has been replaced by OKR, better aligned with VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) environment. 

What about BAU (Business as Usual)? Can we and should we use OKRs for BAU management? If so, how?

One practical solution is the development of a glossary of the terms in the field of goal management, including their detailed explanation and clarification for what and how they will be used during and after the adoption of OKRs.

The dictionary is just the first step. The next, more important one is to encourage the people in the organization, from senior management to interns, to speak that language. Clear and consistent OKR language will lead to clarity, common understanding, efficient communication, successful OKR implementation, and goal achievement.


The practical tips based on my experience with OKRs deployment in various companies are:


  • Don’t forget the language, as it is the forgotten success factor for OKR implementation
  • Create the dictionary of terms in the realm of goal management and terms and phrases used in the OKR methodology
  • Help people grasp the meaning and use that language on a daily basis
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