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The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are both popular frameworks for setting goals and managing performance in organizations. Since I have had extensive experience with both frameworks, both as an executive as well as an OKRs Consultant and EOS Implementer, I am frequently asked for my opinion about the two frameworks.  The simple answer, and what I tell our clients is: ‘I like them both!’  This may seem like a fence-riding answer, but its the honest truth.  I realize that’s not a very satisfying answer though,  but it’s the honest truth. so let’s dig a little deeper.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)

EOS is a holistic management system that is designed to help organizations ‘clarify, simplify, and achieve their vision’. It is based on a set of simple, practical tools that are designed to help leaders clarify their Purpose/Cause/Passion, align their teams, and execute their plans. The system consists of six key components: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction. Each component is designed to help leaders manage a different aspect of their organization and is supported by a range of tools and techniques. Generally, the EOS management system is designed for small to small/medium sized companies – hence the name Entrepreneurial Operating System.

Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)

OKRs, on the other hand, are a goal-setting framework that is designed to help organizations set and achieve specific, measurable, and ambitious objectives all aligned to a clear strategy. The system consists of a set of clear, measurable objectives and key results that are designed to be challenging but achievable. OKRs are typically set for a specific period (e.g., annually or quarterly) and are used to track progress and ensure that teams are working toward common goals and strategic intent. The superpowers of OKRs are strategic focus, vertical and horizontal alignment across the enterprise, employee engagement (literally giving employees the opportunity to write themselves into the company’s strategy), and measured risk taking. OKRs can be implemented in any size organization, from start-up to Fortune 100 global enterprises.

Common Benefits from Both Frameworks

There are some clear similarities between EOS and the OKRs Framework. For example:

  1. Both systems are focused on setting clear, measurable goals: Whether using EOS or OKRs, the focus is on setting clear, measurable goals that are aligned with an organization’s strategic priorities. In OKRs goals are called Objectives; in EOS they are referred to as Rocks.
  2. Both systems emphasize the importance of alignment: Both EOS and OKRs emphasize the importance of aligning individual and team goals with an organization’s overall strategic priorities. This ensures that everyone is working toward common goals and that resources are being used effectively.
  3. Both systems are designed to promote accountability: Both EOS and OKRs are designed to promote accountability by providing clear targets and metrics for success. This helps to ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and that progress is being tracked effectively.
  4. Both systems support a suite of governance disciplines designed to make data-driven decision making a hardwire management practice, such as meeting cadences, reporting, transparency, etc.
  5. Both frameworks include tools and techniques for building trust, resolving conflicts, and improving transparency and collaboration across departments/teams/tribes, breaking down silos in the process.

Where EOS and OKRs Differ

However, there are also some differences between the two systems. For example:

  1. EOS is a more comprehensive management system: While OKRs are focused specifically on strategy execution through goal setting, EOS is a more comprehensive management system that includes tools and techniques for managing all aspects of an organization.
  2. EOS places a greater emphasis on process than OKRs. This includes processes for managing issues, making decisions (such as how and who to hire), and improving operational efficiencies. While a good OKRs implementation should include process-oriented Objectives (from a goal-setting perspective), it is not a framework of processes. Given that EOS is largely designed for younger organizations, there is an imbedded assumption that they are more process-needy than more mature companies.
  3. OKRs are more flexible than EOS: OKRs are designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing teams to adjust their goals and key results as needed based on changing circumstances, moving targets, wild market fluctuations, or ongoing feedback. EOS tends to be more structured and less flexible.

Budget & Time

The biggest difference between the two frameworks, and why I am an OKRs Coach exclusively, is the time and money it takes for a company (client) to fully implement EOS vs. OKRs. It takes a company two years to fully complete the EOS implementation process; which, if you hire a certified EOS Implementer, can become both expensive and time consuming. A full OKRs implementation only takes 6-8 weeks, and a company can be fully operational and ‘on their own’ within a single quarter.  If you hire an OKRs Coach to help you implement the OKRs Framework, your investment of both money and time is considerably less than with EOS, for largely the same results.

Hopefully now you can see why I say that I like both OKRs and EOS!  At the end of the day, its really a matter of budget, time, needs, and desired outcomes.  Either way – OKRs or EOS – you are on a good path!  Both systems are valuable tools for managing performance and executing strategy.

OKRs Consultant Kevin Baum is a Global OKRs Coach with OKRsTraining.com and the author of the book ‘Lessons From The Line, Why Every Leader Should Be A Firefighter For A Day’.