Skip to navigation
employees working at table
4 Min Read

OKRs vs Scrum: How They Differ and How They Can Work Together

Nicole Klemp

We talk a lot about Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) at 15Five, because we believe in the value of using a consistent goal-setting framework for high-performing teams. We use OKRs internally and incorporate them into our platform to help keep people, processes, and activities throughout the organization focused on the right priorities.

One question we hear often is what role Scrum plays in an OKR process. Are OKRs and Scrum similar? What makes them different? Can you do both? In this article, we’ll share what you need to know about OKRs and Scrum and how an organization may have both processes in place.

What are OKRs?

The OKR methodology helps organizations, teams, and individuals define and track business objectives and outcomes. The methodology was created by former Intel CEO Andy Grove, then introduced to the general public by John Doerr, who outlined it in his book, Measure What Matters. In the book, Doerr shares how using OKR goals has helped companies like Intel, Google, and Microsoft achieve exponential growth.

The OKR formula: I will do ‘X’ as measured by ‘Y’

This formula essentially means an individual or team will complete a specific objective as measured by the completion of a determined set of key results. Objectives should be aspirational and motivating, and Key Results should be grounded in data, time-boxed, and numeric.

Here is an OKR example:

Objective: Turn our best customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

Key results:

  • Develop and launch a customer community in Q3.
  • Publish 10 new customer case studies by the end of the year.
  • Increase NPS score from 6.5 to 7.5 between Q2 and Q4.

Learn more about creating great OKRs >

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a project management methodology that was created by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the 1990s to meet the demands of the fast-paced culture of product development. (“Scrum” is a rugby term, referring to a period in the game when players pack together to get the ball.)

Scrum is product oriented and most commonly used for software delivery, agility, and other complex products. The framework is intended to be more agile, with each component serving a specific purpose essential to success and usage.

The idea behind Scrum is that teams can work together to tackle projects in small chunks, while having the flexibility to experiment and provide feedback loops to learn and improve as they go. It’s a collaborative and flexible way to deliver value and accumulate small wins as a team.

How do OKRs and Scrum compare?

Scrum is most typically used for software development or other complex projects, while OKRs can be beneficial to a wide range of projects and teams. OKRs also help a team or individual achieve bigger, more aspirational goals, while Scrum focuses more on shorter-term quick wins over time. 

Both OKRs and Scrum use time-bound metrics, but OKRs are often quarterly while Scrum projects use shorter timelines (called “sprints”), typically on a monthly or weekly basis. Scrum is also a team-based process, while OKRs can be for an individual, team, department, or entire organization.

How can OKRs and Scrum work together?

You don’t have to pick one or the other when it comes to OKRs and Scrum. You can have your cake and eat it too, as both methodologies do work well together when used the right way to meet both short-term and long-term organizational goals.

Key Results measure outcomes, not output. So using OKRs to set broader organizational objectives and using the Scrum framework to then tackle the work to achieve those goals can be a great way for teams to integrate both processes. For example, if you have monthly Scrum sprints, your sprint goal could correspond with one of your OKR Objectives. 

Timeliness and measurable outcomes are important in both frameworks, and both drive higher performance. Employees can see what success looks like and have a clear idea of what they need to do to achieve it. Both frameworks also foster more transparency, accountability, and teamwork in an organization. 

Want to learn more about OKRs?  

The OKR framework can help your employees understand what is expected of them and how their work maps back to company objectives, which can increase employee engagement and performance.

Learn about the importance of goal setting, how OKRs can fit into your performance management strategy, and common pitfalls to avoid in our comprehensive OKR playbook. 

Get the playbook >