How do you set up and track good OKRs to hit your goals faster? This can be an overwhelming task without the right tools.
Excel or Google Sheets templates can help teams stay on top of progress and avoid getting sidetracked. This post will show you how to track OKRs in an Excel template and discuss the pros and cons of using an Excel/Google Sheets template to monitor OKRs. You’ll also learn why result-driven teams, like ours, prefer to use strategy execution platforms to track OKRs.
How to track OKRs in Excel Template?
Before you dive deep into the ‘how’ part, grab this free OKR Excel template so you can follow along.
Here’s how you can use this template to track your OKRs in an Excel spreadsheet:
- Download the template and save it on your computer
- Follow the steps in the instruction in the first tab
- If you need more resources to start crafting your OKRs, you can check these free resources on our blog:
- An in-depth guide that explains the basics you should know about the OKR framework.
- Need more inspiration to get started? Read this article with OKR examples, tips and best practices.
- Wondering what the difference between OKRs and KPIs is? Discover why you should use both in this OKR vs KPI article.
- You’ll find three different tabs inside the template. You can choose between:
- Company OKRs
- Team OKRs
- Individual OKRs
- Extra note: You can make separate tracking files for each team and hierarchy level. For example, you can have a different file for company OKRs and another for each department and team or individual within the team.
- In each tab, you can set and track:
- Key Results
- Tracking metrics
- Comments and updates
- Use the template to co-create OKRs with your team members and fill out the spreadsheet
- Schedule regular review meetings
Keep in mind that the number one priority should be clarity when using Excel to track OKRs. Excel is a powerful tool that can get complicated fast. So when you set up your OKRs, keep it simple and stay focused on what you want to achieve with OKRs.
Pros of using OKR Excel template to set and track OKRs
There is a reason spreadsheets have survived so long in strategy and performance management. Here are three benefits of using spreadsheets for tracking OKRs:
1. Spreadsheets are convenient
The wide use of Excel and other kinds of spreadsheets is due to their flexible nature.
There are as many plans as there are companies. Excel can accommodate every single one of them. There is no limit to the complexity or detail of a plan; a spreadsheet can be customized to fit its shape and size. The only limit is your team’s imagination and Excel skills.
Using a template helps you customize the form to your chosen approach and needs.
2. Boost your team’s performance
Apart from saving time, a template is a great starting point for building a tracking and reporting tool.
You want your team to use the same approach to writing and tracking OKRs. or you’ll waste valuable time gathering and organizing different data. This template will help you to align everyone on the same approach to OKRs and improve your decision-making process.
But why is it important every team shares the same approach? Because it forces each team to alter its approach to conform to certain standards. The team makes decisions that ensure a more straightforward execution and an increased alignment with other teams or departments. It will also be much easier for cross-functional teams to collaborate if they use the same method to track OKRs.
This will help you establish company-wide consistency in your OKR development approach.
3. There’s omni-compatibility
Or at least near omni-compatibility.
When you build and share an Excel file, you can be rather confident that the recipient will be able to access and work on it (if they need to).
Although many spreadsheet software exists—Apple’s Numbers, Microsoft Excel, Google sheet etc.—the core features and capabilities are almost identical. In the off case, your desktop isn’t compatible with the file you received, you can import the file into another app and use it with little alterations.
In an age of infinite technologies and compatibility issues, it’s a mental remedy to know that you can share the team’s OKRs with every team member, and they’ll be able to access it with few if any, problems.
Cons of using OKR Excel template (or any other static tool)
Even though Excel and its alternatives dominate business processes, their limitations are causing them to be replaced at an accelerating pace. Here are the three biggest drawbacks of spreadsheets:
1. Individual plans don’t connect to the bigger picture
This is a huge problem mostly because it’s left unaddressed.
Even in two direct reporting levels, it’s not easy to connect or demonstrate the alignment of objectives clearly. Attempting to connect team-level objectives with top-level strategic priorities using spreadsheets is doomed to fail and takes too much time that could be spent on driving business results.
However, it’s critical to connect every team’s plan and every team member’s work with the strategy and the bigger picture. Why? First, because you need to ensure the strategy is executed. Second, because your people must be focused on doing the right activities that improve business performance. And lastly, because when people feel like their work fits into the business strategy, they’re more likely to stay, enjoy and engage with their work.
In the absence of a better solution, businesses spend countless hours working with spreadsheets to achieve these benefits.
2. Tracking down the latest version is a nightmare
Company strategy FY23-27 final final FINAL MASTER COPY v23.1.xlsx
If you’ve seen anything like this before, you know how painful—and ridiculous–it is to look for the latest version of your business plan. Or your team’s plan. Or the department’s plan. Or your own plan.
Spreadsheets might be shareable and compatible with almost any hardware, but they don’t support real-time collaboration. On the contrary, if multiple team members make multiple changes, you end up with multiple different versions. Putting together the progress for your quarterly objectives becomes a hustle, and tracking down the real final version becomes a time-sucking nightmare.
3. You make a trade-off between clarity and accuracy
This is why everybody in strategy hates spreadsheets.
You either built a clear plan that is useless and doesn’t educate any kind of decisions. Or you built a comprehensive and hard-to-read plan that nobody knows how to navigate. In both scenarios, you end up with a plan that only one person reads. Its maker.
On top of that, more often than not, you need to track down and beg your colleagues to update their progress in the spreadsheet. Instead of focusing on your work, you become your team’s babysitter to keep accurate records.
Excel, PowerPoint and all the ‘productivity’ tools out there don’t actually help you to succeed - they just help you to ‘do more stuff’.
Alternative option to Excel: Track OKRs in Cascade
In strategy, where planning is complex, and a large number of people are responsible for managing, tracking, and updating progress, the cons of spreadsheets are magnified.
Since we launched Cascade, more than 15,000 teams have used the strategy execution platform (see G2 reviews), including teams from American Express, McLaren, Toshiba, UBS and many more. Adopting a strategy execution platform like Cascade helps you track OKRs and strategic plans more effectively, rather than using spreadsheets.
Here’s why a strategy execution platform like Cascade is better than using spreadsheets:
1. You connect all plans and OKRs to the bigger picture
Strategic alignment drives organizational focus. And siloed teams disturb that focus.
Connecting each department’s plan with the company's overall strategy helps you concentrate effort in a single direction.
Here’s how you can do it in Cascade:
- Set the company's overall strategic plan.
- You can build by using the OKR framework or other strategic frameworks, like the Cascade model, V2MOM, Balanced Scorecard, and Hoshin Kanri.
- Link sub-plans to the overall strategy and build a clear strategic alignment across the organization.
For example, you can align departments with company OKRs or the sales team objectives with marketing key results.
OKRs become much more than goal-setting frameworks when they are aligned with strategy and provided with ample context. They become a strategy execution framework that drives focus, alignment and business performance.
2. You automatically generate reports with the up-to-date information
A clear report with up-to-date information tailored to the intended audience is essential for making the right decision.
By delegating the process to all of your employees, you won't have to have someone spend hours searching for the latest updates and putting them in a spreadsheet. With Cascade, you create a single source of truth for your OKRs. Each individual can update OKRs they’re responsible for, and the update is reflected instantly everywhere. There’s no need to transfer data between multiple spreadsheets.
Using Cascade, you can build beautiful reports and clear dashboards tailored to your needs. From dashboards for your plan’s Focus Areas to a single team’s OKRs, you can create automated reports and share them with your boss or colleagues.
This will save you countless hours in gathering, tracking, and reporting progress.
3. You increase visibility and improve collaboration
Information silos lead to duplicated work and wasted money on dead-end strategies.
With Cascade, you will have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in your organization or your team. This will help you to identify underperforming areas and intervene before it’s too late. Using Cascade’s collaboration features, you will be able to boost cross-functional collaboration and alignment.
The more people understand the company's strategy and feel like their work contributes to it, the more they engage with their work and derive satisfaction from it.
Your team will be able to align work and collaborate more effectively if they understand the goals and metrics of another team. When they know that the procurement team's top priority is to reduce costs, any idea they propose or collaboration they propose should be framed within that context.
The OKR bet
Most companies fail to implement a beneficial version of the OKR framework.
There is a lot that goes into implementing a beneficial version of the OKR framework.
From developing the OKRs and aligning them with the company’s overall strategy to tracking their progress. It’s important to start with a simple but effective approach and use tools like this OKR excel template. But it’s not possible to support a scaled-up adoption of the framework with static tools like Excel and PowerPoint files.
If you wish for a company-wide implementation, you need to move beyond spreadsheets and slides.
Using an OKR template is a good starting point to develop OKRs, but spreadsheets often replicate the problems that the framework tries to solve. So, if you want to learn how Cascade can help you set up and track your OKRs, book a demo with us.