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.

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Little ways an organizational leader can show her team she cares about them as people

Pay them a competitive salary. Protect against mission and role creep. Give something clear to work toward and a strategy to employ to get there.

As an organizational leader, these are the foundations of developing a healthy relationship with your workforce. I’ve found there are other signs of an empathetic organizational culture that you can develop, without excessive budget needs.

These are examples of ways to show your team that you actually care about them as people. It goes a long way to develop the relationships you need to take on a big challenge, particularly without a pile of money.

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3 simple ideas for thriving in an open office

You can find a lot of solid advice for surviving the open office.

The historical arc of offices is richly told. Despite the criticism they get, I’m fond of them, over many offices or more established cubicles. Someone recently asked me for advice, and I found I had three quick answers that I stand by.

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Start with the doing. Then get to the done

Big goals can inspire. They can also paralyze.

One of the best outcomes from building the habit of building habits is having a skill to make big change. If you want to stop always being late. If you want to be a better public speaker. If you want to drive your company to new heights.

Once you identify the obstacles, these all are essentially tasks of building habits. But we often stare down the end of an enormous project and are so intimidated we never start. That happens to me a lot. So I remind myself that it all comes down to an incredibly simple act: just get started.

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What are you working toward?

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Earlier this year, I took a notecard from my desk and I wrote a short sentence.

It was a reminder, something I look at nearly everyday. This sentence was what I was working toward, in the simplest, most distilled form I could manage then. I then started telling my coworkers what that sentence was, so they knew my motivation, what I stood for.

From my teenage years, I’ve always written these sorts of things, quotes and priorities and reminders. Some are high-minded (I’ve had a Lao Tzu quote in my wallet since undergrad) and others are about working smarter (Your Email Inbox is Not Your To-Do List). I cherish these things. I find they do help transform my mood and habits. They are genuinely for me but, of course, they’re acts of signaling too. I am saying to the world (and therefore reinforcing for me), “Hey, These are my priorities, World!” This comforts me. I have a plan to cope.

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Lessons on “The Messy Middle” of business from Scott Belsky

You know startups. You know exits.

Most of the work of business takes place somewhere in between the very start and the very end. Yet a lot of media attention focuses on those two iconic poles. So you might know a lot less about the space between the two poles.

We need more guidance on the work stage. That’s the approach in The Messy Middle, a new book published late last year from Scott Belsky. He founded Behance, which sold in 2012 to Adobe for $150 million, and has been an active  investor.

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This is a better question for getting perspective to make a decision

I’ve started to replace a common question with something a bit different.

I love making decisions informed by consensus. As I’ve gotten older and taken on different roles, I’ve made it a point to be more decisive and clear in being responsible for the final decision. But perhaps from my journalism roots, I commonly want to get other people’s opinions on a matter.

It’s important to understand their vantage point: in a leadership function, you are responsible for having a wider understanding of a situation. But with the right balance, knowing more focused opinions are crucial.

But I think there’s a better question than simply: “what’s your opinion on this?”

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You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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What is your passive jobseeker hiring strategy? [DisruptHR]

Typically, hiring managers use the phrase “passive jobseekers” to mean people happily employed elsewhere whom they chase down because they have the right credentials.

Since these people don’t quite want the job, most of the research about these kinds of candidates shows they’re crummy: when approached by recruiters, they ask for don’t stay long and ask for too much money and, after all, they’re so hard to find they’re costly. Plus, most of this is happening on an ever more crowded LinkedIn.

But as we at have done more reporting and, actually, more work for clients on talent sourcing, I’ve found the established talent acquisition industry has a pretty rotten definition. It’s way too limited and that leads to limited strategies. That was the focus of a five-minute lightning talk I gave in October to more than 300 HR professionals at a DisruptHR event.

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