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OKR Spreadsheets vs. OKR Software

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4 min read
Outlined bullseye design aligned left, positioned beside a spreadsheet 2x6 outline, to signify OKRs vs spreadsheets

Key takeaway: OKRs are a powerful framework for focusing initiatives, fostering accountability, and driving team alignment. While putting OKRs together in a spreadsheet may seem like the easiest way to get started, they have a few weaknesses that can undercut your chances of success. 

An overview of OKR spreadsheets

If you’re looking for an OKR spreadsheet template, you’ve probably done your research on OKRs. 

You know how they help your teams define their goals, achieve their objectives, and measure success. You’re probably familiar with the key benefits of OKRs as well if not, we’ve got you covered.

But what if we told you an OKR spreadsheet could limit the benefits of your OKRs?

Why use OKR spreadsheets?

We get it — spreadsheets are your go-to because they’re easy to use.  

Everyone can navigate sheets, add data inputs, and there’s no confusion about technical know-how. Spreadsheets, when used in depth, even have a degree of automation and ability to link dependencies.  

But what do all the proposed OKR spreadsheet templates and examples fail to mention?

Why not use OKR spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets can work for very small teams looking to test the OKR concept.  

However, if you want to bring more than a few team members into the mix, OKR spreadsheets quickly become a fickle process, creating more friction than benefits.  

OKR spreadsheets become self-inhibiting because they’re a fundamental misuse of the tool at hand. Spreadsheets rely on rigid manual inputs, surface-level interpretation, and lack task management capabilities.  

Creating your OKRs in spreadsheets is like building a house on a foundation of toothpicks. 

Let’s explore why the features of OKR spreadsheets aren't ideal for the long-term incorporation of OKRs.

OKR spreadsheets: do they work?

OKR spreadsheets may fit your short-term needs: quick, easy, simple. But this doesn’t make them an ideal solution for executing OKRs — especially if you plan to grow and change your business with OKRs (versus simply operating in the status quo).  

Advantages of OKR spreadsheets

OKR spreadsheets promise to be a low-barrier-to-entry solution for your OKRs. To an extent, they deliver on this promise with three key benefits:

  • Easily accessible and editable
  • Familiar interface, receptive to raw inputs
  • Sheets feel tactical, giving the impression work is getting done

However, extracting the most value from OKRs means digging deeper into functionality.

Disadvantages of OKR spreadsheets

OKRs help bridge the gap between strategy and execution. However, if the OKR tool you’re using inhibits alignment or can’t consolidate strategy and tactics in one place, you can’t derive the full benefits of OKRs.

OKR spreadsheets present several disadvantages:

  • Strategic goals are hard to frame in sheets
  • Scaling the OKR process in sheets is resource intensive
  • Manual progress tracking is time-consuming
  • Multi-level or cross-functional goal alignment is nearly impossible
  • Dependencies are a problem to track without complex layering
  • Compliance with OKRs isn’t nurtured
  • Managing OKRs across multiple teams, at scale, is a logistics nightmare 

What OKR spreadsheets fail to accomplish

The key themes of OKR templates through spreadsheets — short-term, manual, surface level — are the antithesis of the OKR framework.

Under the guise of being “simpler,” the hands-on requirements of OKR spreadsheets distract your teams from doing the actual work. They are only “easier to get started” because they disregard business strategy, ignoring the conversation of alignment and how impactful work is created.

Most of all, OKR spreadsheets program negative OKR habits into you and your teams.  

While the inefficiencies of OKR spreadsheets are clear, what's not immediately apparent is the cost of unlearning.

Your OKR spreadsheet becomes a glorified checklist, which doesn’t create real focus. 

Accountability is never fostered because ownership isn’t enforceable through spreadsheets. Alignment is limited beyond a short-term sprint or a static quarterly overview. A lack of attribution and information about work in progress creates a lack of transparency.

Ultimately, these negative OKR habits mean OKR spreadsheets can never inspire the engaged, driven work that moves the needle for your business.

It’s easy to see the downsides of OKR template spreadsheets, but is there a better option? 

The alternative to OKR spreadsheets

If you've made it to this point, it’s safe to assume you’re serious about OKRs.

You can have the proposed convenience of OKR spreadsheets while experiencing the benefits of OKRs through the use of OKR software.

Starting with a free and intuitive  OKR software can help your business:

  • Simplify OKR adoption
  • Build a scalable, manageable OKR process
  • Incorporate data in your decision making
  • Not reinforce poor strategic and tactical habits
  • Gain the full benefits of OKRs using a low-risk approach 

According to the Global State of OKRs Trends Report, “High performers have diverse approaches to managing and tracking OKRs…the primary distinction is their higher usage of OKR software compared to other groups.” 

If you want to do OKRs the right, sustainable way, don’t sell yourself short — leverage the benefits of OKR software.

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

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