Measure what matters book cover and author headshot

Measure What Matters: a book on setting goals and hitting them

Set an objective and guide your progress with key results.

It’s the main guidance of a long-popular management framework that was effectively outlined in the 2018 book Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs written by legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, who has long championed the process. My company began testing the framework in late 2020, as the pandemic necessitated new organizing principles, and I read the book last year.

In short, OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, is a goal-setting method that involves setting clear and measurable objectives and tracking progress towards them using quantifiable metrics. The goal of OKRs is to focus an organization’s efforts and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

They are designed to be challenging, but achievable, and should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure they are still relevant. OKRs were developed by Intel in the 1970s and have been used by companies like Google and Bono to drive success. The effectiveness of OKRs comes from their clear framework for setting and achieving goals, their encouragement of collaboration and communication within an organization, and the regular review and update process that ensures they remain relevant.

To implement OKRs successfully, it’s important to tie them to strategy, provide feedback and recognition, and be transparent about them. It’s also important for OKRs to be seen as important at every employee level and for them to represent the majority of an organization’s work. Managers should be aware of what excites their direct reports, what they want to change, what skills they want to add for career growth, and what is blocking progress on OKRs. It’s also important to have a mix of committed and stretch goals and to use all team meetings to address OKRs.

Below I have my notes from the book.

My notes:

  • Don’t tie compensation to OKRs
  • Objective as measured by 3-5 Key Results
  • Google has core (“committed”) goals and stretch goals
  • CFRs inspire influence and inform OKRs
  • Conversations
  • Feedback
  • Recognition
  • OkRs must be recapped each quarter with context; they should be “scored” both with the number and a contextual recap: why did or didn’t this work? Wrong OKR or wrong number or both?
  • Objectives are the goal posts; KRs are the plays down the field; CFRs is practice and Monday morning film debriefs
  • One on one weekly meetings (supervisor should do 10% of the talking; it’s the subordinate’s meeting). What is blocking you from your OKRs? What are you doing to move toward your OKRs ? How are you feeling / doing? What don’t we know or aren’t seeing? How do we get better and what other team goals do you need help with
  • Give more specific feedback (both negative and positive); more humility about figuring out how to hit goals together and getting the tools and resources to do so
  • Be Transparent: all staff are encouraged to see everyone’s OKRs to understand how the pieces fit together
  • If successful, teammates regroup on their OKRs to see how their pieces fit together
  • Andy Grove is father of OKRs (MBOs another tool of that era)
  • The whole team should feel each OKR, and want to get them right
  • Doy Seidman: companies that out behave their competition will also outperform them (culture snd values) . We moved from needing employees to do the next thing right to them needing to do the next right thing, a rule book can’t solve for all these situations so culture is important
  • Some OKR programs are just window dressing with one operations person pushing people to update. It has to be seen as powerful at every employee level
  • For all companies it takes a few cycles to hit
  • “Selling your reds” who needs help? “Buying your reds” of others who think they can help or support that goal.
  • OKRs help you work on the business not just in the business
  • If you’re tracking to at least 75%, you remain on track. If you’re tracking to 50-75%, you’re at risk, below it’s off track
  • Completion: Below 75% failed; 75% partial; 100%+ accomplished
  • SMART goals
  • Objectives are WHATs; KRs are HOW
  • We do this in Asana; your tasks should relate to a KR or have a clear reason why not
  • OKRs should not be business as usual
  • Litmus test from Google: does your OKR meet or exceed what our community would expect from us?
  • All KRs at 100% should reach the objective
  • Your objective likely should be short and crisp. KRs should be quantifiable and tied to direct value created for our community and clients
  • Likely all KRs shouldn’t end on the last day of the quarter (but a checkpoint is fine). So some KRS might carry into new quarters but all shouldn’t
  • Your team OKRs should represent most but not necessarily all of your work. You’ll “tend to the garden” but majority should work toward OKRs
  • Use all team meetings to address OKRs, both learning and forward looking
  • Every manager should know: what part of my direct reports job most excited them, what do they most want to change, what skills do they want to add for their career growth, what’s blocking progress on OKRs
  • Have mix of committed (plan for 100%) and stretch goals; if it’s all green or all red it’s wrong. What exponential growth do you have?
  • OKR catalyzes and CFR nourishes

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