Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

Summary

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr introduces you to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a powerful goal-setting framework for organizations. This system has been used by countless successful companies to direct efforts and grow over the long-term.

For a tactical approach to using OKRs to set goals in your personal life, check out: How to Set and Achieve Meaningful Goals.

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Key Takeaways

Focus on execution

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”

Good ideas without proper execution are useless. To see ideas to come to life and drive value for your organization, you need a systematic approach to prioritizing and executing on the best ideas.

What are OKRs?

  • Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): A management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization. This goal-setting framework is used by Google, Airbnb, LinkedIn, and many other successful companies.
  • Objective: a short, inspirational, and achievable statement that describes WHAT you want to achieve. Objectives are a “vaccine against fuzzy thinking and fuzzy execution.”
  • Key Results: succinct, specific, and measurable actions that map out HOW you will achieve your Objectives. KRs are aggressive, but realistic.

OKRs set your goals

“OKRs surface your primary goals. They channel efforts and coordination. They link diverse operations, lending purpose and unity to the entire organization.”

OKRs help your organization prioritize the highest impact initiatives. They also align people across your entire organization, which creates unity despite people working on very different parts of the business.

The danger of goals

“Goals may cause systematic problems in organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased motivation.”

The wrong goals can be detrimental to an organization. The OKR process helps you set the right goals, but it must be used carefully. Sending people in the wrong direction or incentivizing the wrong behavior through goals can be wildly harmful to an organization.

A shared language for execution

“OKRs are a shared language for execution. They clarify expectations: What do we need to get done (and fast), and who’s working on it? They keep employees aligned, vertically and horizontally.”

OKRs unify the organization with a shared language and clarity about expectations.

Communicating the “why”

“Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. Their people need more than milestones for motivation. They are thirsting for meaning, to understand how their goals relate to the mission. And the process can’t stop with unveiling top-line OKRs at a quarterly all-hands meeting. As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner likes to say, ‘When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it.’”

People want to find meaning in their work. They want to know how their hours contribute directly to the mission of the organization. It’s the responsibility of the leader to explain why certain goals have been set, and how individuals working on their goals are contributing to the overall vision.

Involve your people in setting OKRs

“People who choose their destination will own a deeper awareness of what it takes to get there.”

Giving people a chance to contribute to setting OKRs within their functions can help increase buy-in, give a sense of ownership, and help them understand what it takes to achieve the goals. Leaders need to find the right balance between bottom-up and top-down goal-setting when using OKRs.

How to stop being embarrassed

A manager’s “first role,” Drucker said, “is the personal one. It’s the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence . . . the creation of a community.” Or as Albert Einstein observed, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Outside of setting the right goals and getting buy-in from their teams, managers need to focus on relationships. They need to make sure their people are developing and happy with their path.

Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRs)

OKRs need to include a healthy and continuous performance management system. This can be down with the CFR framework.

  • Conversations: “an authentic, richly textured exchange between manager and contributor, aimed at driving performance”
  • Feedback: “bidirectional or networked communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement”
  • Recognition: “expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all”

CFRs help promote transparency, accountability, empowerment, and teamwork.

Feedback

“Sheryl Sandberg notes: ‘Feedback is an opinion, grounded in observations and experiences, which allows us to know what impression we make on others.’”

Feedback helps people understand how others perceive them and their work. It’s naturally opinion-based, but is often grounded in the experiences we have with colleagues. Managers need to learn how to give constructive feedback to their employees in a way that they can absorb and action that feedback.

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