Articles

EOS and OKRs: What’s the Difference?

Estimated read time icon
5 min read
OKRs vs EOS methodology

Both the entrepreneurial operating system (EOS) and the objectives and key results (OKRs) methodology are popular goal-setting frameworks that help organizations at any stage make significant progress towards a clear mission.

Maybe your organization is using EOS, and you’re wondering how OKRs can help you. You may be unsure how they link together or you may need help getting others on board with OKRs. 

Either way, this article will help you understand the compatibility of EOS and OKRs by exploring the main ideas of each framework, their similarities and differences, and how they can work together to provide the most value for your organization. 

What is EOS?

The EOS framework, based on the book Traction by Gino Whitman, helps leadership teams become tighter and more efficient in ways meant to permeate the entire organization.  

It’s designed for growth-minded organizations of about 10 to a few hundred people but has been employed successfully in much larger companies, too.

EOS focuses on six main components: vision, people, data, processes, traction, and issues.

  • Vision: Determining and communicating values, goals, and purpose to get everyone on the same page about where the organization is going and what the plan is.
  • People: Hiring the right people to make your vision work, with a focus on distributing responsibilities and defining skills effectively.
  • Data: Defining certain standards and key performance indicators to maintain a pulse on the company’s overall health.
  • Process: Being consistent and systematic about how you do things by analyzing metrics to determine strengths and weaknesses so you can address them.
  • Traction: Holding recurring meetings and encouraging discipline and accountability for effective execution of goals.
  • Issues: Identifying, prioritizing, and addressing obstacles as they come instead of ignoring them. 

What are OKRs?

The OKRs framework was created by Intel’s Andy Grove and popularized by John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters. OKRs accelerate growth by helping teams achieve aspirational goals through identifiable, measurable results.

OKRs have two components:

  • Objective: what you’re trying to accomplish
  • Key results: how you’ll measure whether you achieve the objective

The OKR methodology can be used by companies and teams of any size, as well as by individuals. By design, OKRs create a standard goal framework the whole company can align with.

OKRs help you create a purpose-driven culture, close the strategy execution gap, and achieve results by providing five core benefits: focus, accountability, alignment, transparency, and engagement.  

  • Focus: Setting OKRs forces you to decide what’s most important and let go of what isn’t, enabling impactful contributions.  
  • Accountability: OKRs create a sense of ownership within teams, connecting individuals to the greater mission of the organization. This fosters further trust, empowerment, and commitment.
  • Alignment: OKRs create company-wide clarity of top-level objectives, enabling teams to push in the same direction and align across the organization.
  • Transparency: When decisions, strategy, and work are transparent, employees can establish trust and collaboration to achieve much more over time.  
  • Engagement: OKRs involve teams with the goal-setting process, creating a sense of empowerment, personal responsibility, and purpose across the board.

Learn the core principles that underpin OKR success with our 3-hour Certification Program.

Principles of OKRs.svg

The differences between EOS and OKRs

Although they’re both goal-setting frameworks, the main difference between EOS and OKRs is how they’re applied.  

EOS is ultimately a complete operating model for businesses, while OKRs are not exclusive to any operating model. Rather, OKRs can light the way for building processes, adapting your current model, or managing goal strategy and execution. OKRs can also be implemented in individual areas of an organization.

Along with being an operating system, EOS has defined timeframes to guide organizations to a ten-year target. OKRs provide flexibility, where objectives can be defined quarterly, annually, or monthly, as well as customized to your company’s needs.

EOS serves business leaders and entrepreneurs primarily, while OKRs are designed to work universally across roles, industries, and different types of goals — even personal, non-work-related goals

The similarities between EOS and OKRs

Both EOS and OKRs aim to help organizations grow strategically from a grounded, central vision. They also share many overlapping elements, including a focus on prioritization, strategy, and time-bound metrics.  

Using either methodology, organizations can successfully build from the ground up, or existing companies can retool or transform by clarifying why, how, and for whom they exist. For both frameworks, it’s critical to return to mission, vision, and values throughout the process and reflect upon results.  

Although they have slightly different audiences, EOS and OKRs share important values, including:

  • Clarity
  • Transparency
  • Innovation
  • Autonomy
  • Adaptability

These values tend to attract visionary leaders who want to build an engaged culture, offset limitations of traditional business structures, and succeed in the future of work.

How OKRs can complement EOS

Because of the differences between EOS and OKRs, it’s not necessary to choose between the two. In fact, if your company is already using EOS, you can employ OKRs to offset some of the main EOS challenges, such as:

  • Complexity
  • Slowness
  • Getting proper buy-in

Complexity

The complexity of the EOS system can create competition between priorities and can leave people fighting for resources. OKRs can help offset complexity by providing consistent clarity around priorities, the allocation of resources, and ownership of objectives.  

With the accountability provided by consistent OKR updates, you can better avoid fundamental errors and adapt to setbacks. OKRs are also inherently cross-collaborative, making it easier for teams to align across departments on common goals that contribute to the company’s mission.

Tip: You can format quarterly priorities, or “rocks,” as objectives with 3-4 time-bound, measurable key results to track progress.

Slowness

Depending on the size of your organization, implementing EOS could take up to three years — a long time in today’s business environment. And if your company is already using EOS, you may still be gaining traction, while struggling to maintain the patience necessary for success.

With OKRs, you can explore how each individual part of the EOS process is going. The ability to drill down into the goals and processes of each element will create transparency, so you can better enable your team to articulate and resolve issues as they arise.

Getting proper buy-in

Without proper buy-in, alignment, and connection, EOS cannot succeed — meaning it must have buy-in across all departments.  

OKRs can be used to engage employees, provide a sense of purpose, and clarify the impact of both individual employees and EOS itself across the organization. OKR transparency can also help by showing leadership dedication to EOS processes and removing doubts about integrity. 

Integrate EOS and OKRs with Quantive

Despite the serious benefits of integrating EOS and OKRS, aligning the two methodologies will present unique challenges for any organization. 

If you’re implementing OKRs in your EOS-directed startup, SMB, or enterprise, the right software can help you streamline your adoption process and achieve the best results. If you’re just getting started, explore our free-forever plan.


Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress.

As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need a modern approach to run your business and change your business. The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better business outcomes.

Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps get you where you want to go.

Ready to achieve the best possible? Start using Quantive for free.

Additional resources

Subscribe for our Newsletter