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The Top 5 OKR Alternatives

OKRs are popular for setting ambitious goals, but they’re not always a perfect fit for product teams.

If you’re facing challenges with OKRs – we’ve got you covered. This article will introduce you to:

  • Common reasons teams seek OKR alternatives
  • Top goal-setting frameworks to consider
  • How to enhance any goal-setting system

Let’s dive in:

What are the OKRs at a product company?

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a goal-setting framework that helps product companies align their efforts around ambitious, measurable outcomes. 

They focus on the “what” (the desired outcome) and the “how” (the metrics that track progress).  

“A 15% increase in customer activation past the onboarding sequence” is a good example of an OKR your product team can have.

OKRs encourage teams to move beyond outputs (features shipped) and prioritize impact (customer or business value). 

But they’re not a perfect system for all circumstances. Here are a few cases where OKRs might be a bad choice:

When should you look for OKR alternatives?

While OKRs are a powerful tool, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here are some scenarios where exploring alternatives might be beneficial:

  • Early-Stage Startups: When priorities shift rapidly, the rigidity of quarterly OKRs can slow down very new companies still finding their product-market fit.
  • Highly Unpredictable Environments: If external factors or market conditions are constantly in flux, setting meaningful OKRs can be difficult, leading to frustration and a sense of chasing moving targets.
  • Need for More Flexibility: OKRs focus on a few big goals. Teams who prefer more granular goals or need more frequent adjustments might find them too restrictive.
  • Difficulty Measuring Outcomes: Sometimes, especially with innovation-focused work, the actual “outcome” is hard to quantify. This can make OKRs feel demotivating rather than inspiring.

This doesn’t mean OKRs are wrong in these situations. Some companies successfully adapt the framework. 

However, being aware of potential challenges is the first step to finding a goal-setting system that genuinely works for your team.

The top 5 OKR alternatives

If you don’t find the OKRs suitable for your company, each of the following alternatives is a great option:

SMART goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It’s a classic goal-setting framework that predates OKRs. 

SMART goals are a decent replacement for OKRs because of their:

  • Simplicity: Easy to grasp, making them good for teams new to structured goals.
  • Measurability: The emphasis on measurable targets promotes accountability.
  • Adaptability: Can be used for short-term goals or alongside an OKR framework.

SMART goals tend to be less aspirational and more focused on clearly defined, incremental improvements.

For example, a bit vague OKR like “Increase user conversion rate by 20%” can become a much more inspiring SMART goal: “Increase sign-up form completion rate by 10% by the end of the month by A/B testing two new form designs.”


CFRs, popularized by Google, shift focus away from top-down goal setting and towards continuous work on your performance through:

  • Conversations: Regular, ongoing dialogues between managers and team members.
  • Feedback: Focus on real-time, constructive feedback instead of annual reviews.
  • Recognition: Celebrating wins, both big and small, to foster motivation.

This model adapts well to Agile environments with many changing priorities and goals. It eliminates the rigidity of OKRs, which demand planning before the work actually starts.

For example, instead of an OKR focused on revenue targets, a team using CFRs might naturally discover through manager-employee conversations that improving customer onboarding is key to increasing retention. This insight becomes the focus for the next period.

Also, CFRs contribute to the psychological safety of the team. The focus on feedback creates an environment where growth and learning are the key values, not just “hitting the targets.”

Regular recognition and dialogue boost morale and give your team members a sense of ownership.

CFRs in action using Fibery
CFRs in action using Fibery

Outcomes vs. Output

This approach emphasizes defining desired outcomes (the impact you want to have) and then empowering teams to determine the best outputs (solutions) to achieve them.

For example, instead of an OKR like “Increase feature X adoption by 30%”, a team might set an outcome of “Improve customer satisfaction with product Y”. They’re then free to explore different solutions that might achieve this.

Unlike OKRs, it doesn’t mandate specific key results, allowing for more flexibility in execution.

Outcomes vs. Output gives teams the freedom to experiment and discover solutions rather than feeling constrained by pre-defined metrics.

It also encourages teams to think deeply about the problems they’re solving for users rather than just hitting arbitrary numbers.

This model is especially useful if your team is cross-functional (and most likely, smaller than you’d like to). This alternative to OKR leaves the necessary wiggle room for unusual solutions. 

The key to this method, however, is to document the learnings you gain through the learning. This helps you adapt your outputs and remain efficient over time.

Outcomes listed in a Fibery database
Outcomes listed in a Fibery database

Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is a solution for teams that feel OKRs are one-dimensional.

It’s a strategic framework that goes beyond linear, metrics-oriented goals. It typically considers four perspectives:

  • Financial (How do we look to shareholders?)
  • Customer (How do customers see us?)
  • Internal Processes (What must we excel at?)
  • Learning and Growth (Can we continue to improve?)

Each perspective has a set of objectives, measures, targets, and initiatives.

For example, an OKR focused on improving a feature will transform into a balanced scorecard with objectives like:

  • Reducing support tickets related to that feature (Customer perspective)
  • Improving the onboarding process (Learning and Growth perspective)
Balanced scorecards are 4D chess compared to OKRs
Balanced scorecards are 4D chess compared to OKRs

This approach gives you a holistic view of the problems you’re tackling. Because of the four perspectives, you can apply this framework company-wide which will contribute to a cohesive business strategy.


OGSM is a hierarchical framework that breaks down big-picture ambitions into actionable components. It consists of:

  • Objectives: Qualitative, inspiring statements of what you want to achieve.
  • Goals: Specific, measurable results that support the Objective.
  • Strategies: High-level approaches you’ll take to reach the Goals.
  • Measures: The metrics you’ll track to assess progress.

OGSM provides a strong sense of purpose and shows how individual work contributes to the bigger picture.

Sales growth is vague, but OGSM helps you dissect ambitious and overarching plans
Sales growth is vague, but OGSM helps you dissect ambitious and overarching plans

For example, an Objective of  “Become the market leader in customer support software” might have Goals related to:

  • Response times
  • Customer satisfaction scores
  • Building a knowledge base

Strategies could include hiring, AI-powered tools, and self-service content.

As you see, OGSM moves beyond setting goals – it helps you outline the strategies to achieve them.

It’s also highly adaptable to serve multiple departments, fostering cross-functional collaboration in your team.

Final Thoughts

OKRs are a powerful tool, but they’re not the only way to set and achieve ambitious goals. If your team is facing challenges with OKRs, consider exploring alternatives like SMART goals, CFRs, Outcomes vs. Outputs, the Balanced Scorecard, or OGSM. Experiment to find a framework that fosters alignment, accountability, and meaningful results.

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