Quantive launches Quantive StrategyAI, the world’s first strategic intelligence platformRead the blog to learn more
Quantive launches Quantive StrategyAI, the world’s first strategic intelligence platformRead the blog to learn more

MBO vs. OKR: What's the Difference?

Estimated read time icon
7 min read
a transparent circle and square illustration symbolizing OKR vs MBO

Creating objectives for your employees, teams, and organization is critical for success. It ensures that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal. Moreover, it encourages accountability, ownership, and transparency — ultimately helping you with strategy execution.

There are multiple goal-setting frameworks you can use to manage this process — two of which are OKRs and MBOs. OKRs and MBOs are designed to track, manage, and evaluate your business outputs. 

In this article, we’ll dive into OKRs vs. MBOs to help you understand the right goal management approach for you. We'll cover:

  • What are OKRs?
  • What are MBOs?
  • A history of MBOs and OKRs
  • MBO vs. OKR differences
  • OKR vs. MBO examples

What are OKRs?

Objectives and key results (OKRs) refer to a goal-setting methodology that facilities internal alignment and measurability across your organization. This framework is made up of two parts: 

  • Objectives: succinct, qualitative descriptions of what you’re trying to achieve
  • Key results: quantitative metrics that allow you to track progress toward your objective

Learn more in our article What are OKRs?

what are OKRs

What are MBOs?

Management by objectives (MBO) is a methodology for improving organizational performance. It’s based on a top-down approach, where top company goals are used to establish employees’ objectives. Essentially, you use MBOs to set the overarching company objectives and see how individual employees contribute to the organization’s primary goal.

A history of MBOs and OKRs

According to Andy Grove’s book, Measure What Matters, Peter Drucker developed MBOs in the 1950s. The rationale behind this methodology is that when people choose their own course of action, they are more likely to see it through. The MBO framework has been popular with many large corporations, including Hewlett-Packard and Intel. 

In turn, OKRs evolved from MBOs. OKRs were designed to clarify goals by clearly outlining how the company defines success. Developed by Andy Grove and John Doerr in the 1970s, OKRs help teams and organizations reach their goals using identifiable and measurable results. By design, the OKR framework is a standard that should be adopted by the entire company, giving individuals a shared purpose and creating alignment across teams.

The key similarity between OKRs and MBOs is the use of objectives, where both frameworks set up a primary goal for the company or team. Yet, while these two goal-setting frameworks share this similarity, they’re vastly different in structure, orientation, and implementation.  

MBO vs. OKR: Key differences

Goal structure


While both MBOs and OKRs use detailed objectives, OKRs further outline the measurable tasks that contribute to these objectives. This tactical approach to OKRs is built into the framework, while MBOs are typically limited to setting higher-level ambitions without actionability.


MBOs aim for 100% objective completion, while OKRs aim for 60-80%. This confirms that OKRs encourage more ambitious and innovative goals than MBOs.


The analysis of MBOs can either be qualitative or quantitative, while the analysis of OKRs is always quantitative. This leaves no room for ambiguity when gauging the success or failure of your OKRs. Yet, using OKR software suitable to your business, you can obtain qualitative feedback on OKR progress. Such platforms can offer additional anecdotal feedback and analysis alongside numerical performance measures.

Goal orientation

Individual vs. team     

MBOs are assigned to individuals, while OKRs are distributed among teams. While there’s usually a main lead and contributor for key results, OKRs focus on promoting a team mentality and mutual success throughout teams.

Confidential vs. public        

MBOs are discussed between employees and managers, while OKRs are discussed openly throughout your business. As such, OKRs are more solution-oriented as they improve collaboration within and across teams.

Relationship to compensation     

MBO performance tends to affect employees’ paychecks, while OKR performance does not. OKRs emphasize company goals and how each employee contributes to these goals, encouraging performance evaluations to be kept separate from OKRs.

Goal implementation


While you typically write OKRs for a given quarter (and sometimes monthly or yearly), MBOs are traditionally set annually. The risk with MBOs’ annual timeline is that priorities shift or MBOs lose importance, resulting in a lack of focus.


An MBO’s status updates are communicated in isolation between managers and employees. Contrastingly, OKR status updates are shared openly among teams, with transparent discussions ensuring goal achievement is paramount to your company’s culture.


MBOs are set at the beginning of a cycle and remain static. On the other hand, OKRs — particularly key results — are subject to revision if teams see fit. OKRs promote an agile approach to problem-solving by encouraging you to review the ongoing success of chosen methods.

For a quick overview of OKRs vs. MBOs, here’s a table highlighting the main differences between OKRs and MBOs:

an image of a table listing MBO vs OKR differences

OKR vs. MBO: Pros and cons

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of OKR vs. MBO can help you understand which of these goal-setting frameworks is best suited for your organization. Let's glance over these below. 

Pros and cons of OKR 


  • Enable quick goal setup 
  • Provide flexibility and agility 
  • Inspire innovation and creative problem solving   
  • Encourage collaboration, alignment, and transparency across teams  


  • Require ongoing check-ins to yield results 
  • Need to be consistently updated to fit changing environments 
  • Entail training programs and experienced staff to be effective 

Pros and cons of MBOs 


  • Establish defined roles for employees 
  • Encourage employees to be committed and proactive  
  • Improve rapport between managers and employees  


  • Remain inflexible to changing circumstances 
  • Need skilled managers to be successful 
  • Require long-term commitment to be effective 
an image of a diagram showing the pros and cons of OKRs vs MBOs

OKR vs. MBO examples

To give you an example of the differences between an MBO and an OKR in real life, here are a few examples of OKR vs. MBO in different departments.

OKR vs. MBO in marketing 

Marketing MBO example

  • Ensure the company meets the revenue targets

Marketing OKR example

  • Objective: Ensure the company meets the revenue targets
  • Key result 1: Increase new inbound sales from $25k to $50k per month
  • Key result 2: Attract 500 new marketing-qualified leads
  • Key result 3: Attract 100 new marketing-qualified leads from EMEA
  • Key result 4: Generate >$30M in new qualified pipeline from Marketing sourced leads
  • Key result 5: Document and implement the new Account Based Marketing (ABM) process

See more marketing OKR examples.

OKR vs. MBO in product management

Product management MBO example

  • Successfully launch the new product

Product management OKR example

  • Objective: Successfully launch the new product
  • Key result 1: Conduct 30 customer development interviews
  • Key result 2: Review 10 usage videos via UserTesting.com and summarize it internally
  • Key result 3: Do 2 training sessions on the new product for Marketing and Sales teams
  • Key result 4: Review 15 customer requirements documents from Product Marketing

See more product management OKR examples.

OKR vs. MBO in Human Resources (HR)

HR MBO example

  • Establish a more inclusive workplace

HR OKR example

  • Objective: Establish a more inclusive workplace
  • Key result 1: Create a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) plan
  • Key result 2: Hold one training session on diversity, equity, and inclusion with an attendance rate of 100%
  • Key result 3: Hire 2 diverse employees in 3 departments

See more HR OKR examples.

OKR vs. MBO in engineering

Engineering MBO example

  • Improve the quality of our product

Engineering OKR example

  • Objective: Improve the quality of our product
  • Key result 1: Reduce the average number of new bug reports from 72 per month to 60 per month
  • Key result 2: Increase the crash-free ratio from 96% to 99% for the new release
  • Key result 3: Reduce average QA rejections per feature from 1.7 to 1.0
  • Key result 4: Increase code coverage from 35% to 50%

See more engineering OKR examples.

OKR vs. MBO in sales

Sales MBO example

  • Grow sales in the European market

Sales OKR example

  • Objective: Grow sales in the European market
  • Key result 1: Increase SQLs in the European market by 20%
  • Key result 2: Create three new sales training programs
  • Key result 3: Increase sales in the European market by 15%

See more sales OKR examples.

OKR vs. MBO: Wrapping up

When comparing OKR vs MBOs, you'll conclude that both are robust goal-setting methodologies. Yet, many differences arise when looking at the features of OKR vs. MBOs. 

While both use objectives as a North Star, the OKR methodology takes a more granular look at what you need to do to achieve ambitious objectives, pinpointing actionable steps toward success. Additionally, OKRs’ broader scope and transparent progress metrics ensure alignment and visibility across your teams. Their flexibility in updating KRs further ensures you aren’t tied down to irrelevant goals. 

As such, the discussion of OKR vs. MBO boils down to differences in depth, actionability, and measurability. All in all, OKRs offer a more timely, comprehensive, and quantifiable approach to goal-setting than MBOs. 

Quantive empowers modern organizations to turn their ambitions into reality through strategic agility. It's where strategy, teams, and data come together to drive effective decision-making, streamline execution, and maximize performance.  

As your company navigates today’s competitive landscape, you need an Always-On Strategy to continuously bridge the gap between current and desired business outcomes. Quantive brings together the technology, expertise, and passion to transform your strategy from a static plan to a feedback-driven engine for growth.  

Whether you’re a visionary start-up, a mid-market business looking to conquer, or a large enterprise facing disruption, Quantive keeps you ahead — every step of the way. For more information, visit www.quantive.com

Additional resources

Subscribe for our Newsletter