A quick look at OKRs and CFRs
Successful companies know that staying competitive requires a solid goal-setting strategy, one that keeps a business focused, driven, and results-oriented. According to John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, coupling objectives and key results (OKRs) with conversations, feedback, and recognition (CFRs) is an effective approach to goal setting.
Combining OKRs and CFRs creates powerful synergistic opportunities: OKRs help you create goals and pinpoint their attainment, while CFRs act as a functional conduit for OKRs, adding nuance to OKR tracking, performance, and results. As such, using OKRs and CFRs together can strengthen goal-setting approach.
To help you understand how OKRs and CFRs work, this article will:
- Define OKRs and CFRs
- Describe the difference between OKRs and CFRs
- Discuss the benefits of linking OKRs and CFRs
- Cover 14 best practices for combining OKRs and CFRs
What are OKRs?
The OKR methodology is a collaborative goal-setting system used by giants such as Google, Atlassian, and LinkedIn to set actionable goals that generate results. Comprised of objectives and key results, OKRs help you create ambitious, measurable, and timely goals for your organization — both at the collective and individual levels. For a quick breakdown:
Objectives: Short descriptions of what you’re looking to achieve, with each objective being supported by 3-5 key results
Key results: Quantifiable metrics depicting how close you are to achieving your objective
To keep things simple, here’s a hassle-free formula for writing your OKRs:
Need an in-depth look at OKRs? See our extensive article on OKRs.
What are CFRs?
Rooted in continuous improvement, CFR is a system that helps you boost business results, gather feedback, and recognize outstanding performance. The meaning of CFR can be summarized by its three components:
- Conversations: An authentic one-on-one between a manager and contributor aimed at driving performance
- Feedback: Mutual and intentional communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement
- Recognition: Expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes
What's the difference between OKRs and CFRs?
The OKR framework helps businesses set clear, measurable, and ambitious goals that drive innovation and growth. On the other hand, CFRs prioritize communication, feedback, and recognition, whereby managers and employees have an open dialogue to discuss feedback, concerns, and achievements.
As such, some key differences between OKRs and CFRs are that:
- OKRs emphasize strategic alignment and performance measurement, while CFRs support employee engagement, development, and collaboration
- OKRs are typically used at the organizational and team levels, while CFRs are implemented through regular interactions between managers and employees
- OKRs help track progress of desired outcomes, while CFRs promote continuous improvement and employee satisfaction
- OKRs are typically set for a specific time frame (e.g., quarterly or annually), whereas CFRs are ongoing
- OKRs are measurable and quantitative, while CFRs are more qualitative and centered around dialogue and feedback
Why you should use OKRs and CFRs together
While these differences between OKRs and CFRs persist, the two frameworks were created to be complementary.
With OKRs generally graded as “complete” or “incomplete,” they are very straightforward in their depiction of success. And while there are some ways you can add more nuance to OKR tracking (e.g., using percentage benchmarks and OKR scoring), they tend to be binary.
Consequently, CFRs were made to channel OKRs into organizations, encouraging depth and complexity in goal setting and tracking. Moreover, as CFRs are meant to be conducted face-to-face or over video calls, they also add a human component to the OKR process, facilitating connection, engagement, and powerful business results. As such, there are many benefits of using OKRs and CFRs together.
“CFRs supply the energy we need for the journey. Where people have authentic conversations and get constructive feedback and recognition for superior accomplishments, enthusiasm becomes infectious.”
- John Doerr, Measure What Matters
8 benefits of combining OKRs and CFRs
Using OKRs and CFRs enables the following benefits for your organization:
- Improved organizational alignment: Routine updates ensure managers and employees are working toward joint goals
- Better focus on critical priorities: OKRs set the organizational direction, while CFRs cut out the noise
- Positive company culture: Recognition cultivates a happy and rewarding workplace
- Greater engagement among managers and employees: CFRs encourage continuous communication, helping to drive connection
- Healthier employee-manager relationships: Mutual feedback and recognition facilitate more fruitful interactions
- Heightened productivity: As one of the top drivers of employee engagement, recognition encourages employees and managers to keep working toward their goals
- More profitable business results: Effective procedures, focused priorities, and continuous improvement produce greater outcomes
- Enhanced leadership capabilities: Managers can better navigate conversations with employees
How can you combine OKRs and CFRs?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into how OKRS and CFRs work together. Essentially, combining OKRs and CFRs involves embedding conversations, feedback, and recognition throughout the OKR cycle, with OKR progress being used as a key discussion point.
OKR and conversations
In CFRs, conversations are one-on-one meetings where managers and employees discuss OKR challenges, progress, and opportunities. As a fundamental component of the continuous improvement process, these conversations cover:
- Goal setting and reflection: Managers help employees reflect on previous OKRs, plan upcoming ones, and keep current ones aligned with organizational goals
- Ongoing progress updates: Managers look at employees’ real-time progress, applying problem-solving as needed
- Two-way coaching: Both parties help each other perform better in their roles
- Career growth: Employees are encouraged to develop their skills, identify growth opportunities, and discuss their future at the company
- Lightweight performance reviews: A quick recap of what the employee accomplished since the previous meeting, in the context of organizational priorities
OKR and feedback
During OKR feedback sessions, contributors create space for mutual feedback. This enables them to promptly address mistakes, issues, and challenges, allowing your organization to reach its goals with fewer disruptions.
To help you navigate OKR conversations and feedback, here are a few questions to help guide these discussions:
- How are your OKRs progressing?
- What challenges are you faced with when trying to attain objectives?
- How/which OKRs should be updated or changed? Why?
- Are these the right things for me/you/us to be focusing on right now?
- What do you need from me to help you reach your OKRs?
- If I/you/we complete them, will it be seen as a huge success?
- Do you have any feedback on how I/we could stretch ourselves even more?
- And to wrap up the OKR cycle, you can ask questions such as:
- What obstacles did you encounter that affected your ability to accomplish your goals?
- What did you learn that can be integrated or changed in our next OKR cycle?
OKRs and recognition
Congratulating OKR successes is fundamental to a positive work culture. Doing so fosters stronger relationships, emphasizes organizational priorities, and encourages employee engagement, with employees 2.7 times more likely to stay engaged if they’re recognized for their contributions.
For example, by celebrating each OKR milestone and achievement, you encourage employees to work toward overarching business goals. Moreover, doing so publicly can inspire other employees to focus on their OKRs as well.
One thing to note, however, is that OKR conversations, feedback, and recognition should not replace individual performance management. CFRs are dedicated to assessing OKRs related to primary company priorities, and should therefore be kept separate from conversations about individual compensation, promotions, and day-to-day task management.
A summary of OKRs and CFRs
Driving OKRs and CFRs is a great way to solidify OKRs in your organization. Using CFRs as a conduit for OKRs provides a practical framework for implementing, monitoring, and updating OKRs based on timely conversations, feedback, and recognition. Using the best practices highlighted above, you can effectively combine OKRs and CFRs to improve motivation, productivity, focus, and business results while strengthening relationships across your organization.
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OKRs and CFRs: Quick FAQ
What are OKRs?
OKRs (objectives and key results), are a goal-setting framework that helps organizations define, measure, and track their objectives. They provide a structured approach to align teams, drive focus, and achieve ambitious outcomes.
What are CFRs?
CFRs are a management approach focused on open communication, feedback, and recognition to cultivate a positive work environment, encourage collaboration, and support employee development.
What does CFR stand for?
CFR stands for conversations, feedback, and recognition.
How are OKRs and CFRs different?
OKRs and CFRs have distinct focuses and purposes. OKRs are goal management frameworks for performance measurement and strategic alignment, while CFRs prioritize communication, feedback, and recognition. OKRs drive goal attainment, while CFRs foster collaboration, employee engagement, and continuous improvement.
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