Last updated 26 May 2023 ·
In today’s fast-paced business environment, organisations constantly seek effective goal-setting frameworks to drive performance and achieve desired outcomes. Two popular methodologies that have gained significant attention are OKRs, Objectives and Key Results and FAST, which stands for Frequently Discussed, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent goals. Both frameworks have their strengths and can contribute to organisational success.
This blog will explore the key characteristics and differences between OKRs and FAST goals, helping you decide which framework best suits your organisation’s needs.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. OKRs can be set at a company, team and individual level and aim to outline mission-critical objectives which relate to ‘what’ it is you’re trying to achieve. These Objectives link to Key Results, which focus on the measurable steps required to show ‘how’ you will achieve those objectives.
OKRs, pioneered by Intel and popularised by companies like Google, have become widely adopted across various industries. The OKR framework is based on the concept of setting ambitious objectives and measurable key results to drive performance and increase productivity.
Here’s how it works:
1. Objectives: Objectives represent the overarching goals that an organisation or team aims to achieve. They should be inspirational, ambitious, and provide direction.
2. Key Results: Key Results are specific, measurable milestones or metrics that determine progress toward the objectives. They provide a clear framework for tracking and evaluating success throughout the time period.
The primary strength of OKRs lies in their ability to foster alignment, transparency, and focus on outcomes. By setting ambitious objectives and measurable key results, OKRs encourage teams to stretch their capabilities and work towards significant accomplishments.
OKRs help businesses centralise and streamline their focus on a specific vision and how they could achieve this over a certain period of time. They include critical elements of the overall business strategy that must be accomplished to deliver results and achieve the vision consistent with the values. OKRs can be cascaded through an organisation, starting at the CEO level and filtering through various departments and teams with their own set of OKRs corresponding to the CEO. Having OKRs set and cascaded like this encourages team alignment and engagement within a business, and we all know engagement drives better performance!
Exploring FAST goals
Similar to the concept of making goals SMART, which requires them to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, the FAST framework attempts to boil down the most important aspects of goal setting into another memorable acronym. FAST is a relatively new technique focusing more on collaborative and organisational goals than the SMART approach.
FAST goals emphasise the importance of frequent communication, specificity, and transparency in goal-setting. The framework is designed to enhance clarity, accountability, and execution. Let’s delve into the components of FAST goals:
1. Frequently Discussed: FAST goals require regular communication and discussion. Teams are encouraged to hold frequent check-ins and updates to ensure alignment and address any obstacles promptly.
2. Ambitious: FAST goals aim to challenge teams to set ambitious targets that go beyond the status quo. They push individuals and organisations to strive for exceptional performance.
3. Specific: FAST goals emphasise the importance of setting specific and well-defined objectives. Clarity regarding what must be achieved enables teams to focus their efforts effectively.
4. Transparent: Transparency is crucial in the FAST goal-setting framework. Sharing goals and progress updates across the organisation promotes accountability, collaboration, and a collective sense of purpose.
The MIT Sloan Management Review states “SMART goals undervalue ambition, focus narrowly on individual performance, and ignore the importance of discussing goals throughout the year. To drive strategy execution, leaders should instead set FAST goals — frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent.”
While OKRs and FAST goals share some similarities, certain distinctions set them apart:
1. Flexibility vs. Rigidity: OKRs provide a more flexible approach, allowing leaders to set goals at different levels and cascade them throughout the organisation. On the other hand, FAST goals offer a more structured and regimented approach, focusing on specific goal-setting characteristics.
2. Frequency of Discussion: While OKRs encourage regular check-ins, FAST goals emphasise even more frequent and ongoing communication. FAST goals require teams to discuss progress and challenges daily or weekly, enhancing agility and adaptability.
3. Execution and Alignment: OKRs prioritise alignment across teams and departments, fostering a shared sense of purpose and improving execution. FAST ensure that goals are met through a combination of ambition, specificity, and transparency.
Choosing the right framework
Selecting the most suitable goal-setting framework depends on your organisation’s unique needs, culture, and objectives.
Consider the following factors
1. Organisational Structure: If your company values flexibility, cascading goals, and alignment, OKRs may be a better fit. If you seek to enhance frequent communication, FAST goals might be more suitable.
2. Team Distribution: Assess whether your primary goal is aligning remote or widely distributed teams towards common objectives to achieve collective execution or prioritising performance and execution at an individual level.
3. Communication Culture: Reflect on your organisation’s communication culture and its ability to support frequent discussions.
FAST goals focus more on the importance of the process, keeping goals front and centre of everyone’s mind, rather than the bigger vision and collaborative effort. Whereas OKRs provide an easy-to-follow formula for breaking down the vision and larger goals into more manageable tasks and milestones, combining the bigger picture with what needs to be done daily to move closer to the vision.
However, combining the FAST methodology with OKRs can significantly enhance their effectiveness and drive organisational success. Frequent discussions of OKRs enable continuous feedback and course correction, keeping everyone informed and engaged. This promotes a culture of open communication and collaboration, and a sense of shared ownership over the objectives and results. Ambitious OKRs push teams to strive for excellence and reach beyond their comfort zones. They encourage innovation, creativity, and growth, driving organisations to achieve breakthrough results and stay ahead of the competition. Specificity is crucial for effective OKRs. Clear and measurable objectives provide a sense of direction, while specific key results define the path to success. By breaking down objectives into actionable and measurable components, teams can focus their efforts, track progress, and celebrate milestones. Transparency is the foundation of successful OKRs. When OKRs are made transparent, they foster trust, facilitate alignment, and enable collaboration across teams and departments. Transparent OKRs promote a culture of shared responsibility, where everyone understands how their work contributes to the larger organisational goals.
By embracing the FAST methodology, companies can unlock the full potential of OKRs, driving innovation, achieving ambitious goals, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and success.