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


Measure What Matters
Category: Finance
Author: John Doerr
Publisher: Portfolio
Published: 4/24/2018
Legendary venture capitalist John Doerr reveals how the goal-setting system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has helped tech giants from Intel to Google achieve explosive growth--and how it can help any organization thrive.

Book Summary - Measure What Matters By John Doerr

Key Insights

Before John Doerr was a venture capitalist and the author of Measure What Matters, he was just a guy looking for a girl. In the summer of 1975, Doerr went to Silicon Valley to try to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend without knowing where she worked. But luck was on his side. He landed an internship at Intel, which turned out to be where she worked. Doerr got the girl.

It also turned out to be a gamechanger for his career. At Intel, Doerr learned about objectives and key results (OKRs). Championed by Intel co-founder Andy Grove, Doerr saw their impact firsthand. Using a few objectives that were measured against key results, Intel saw consistent growth with Grove at the helm. Grove was CEO of Intel for 11 years and the company grew by 40% each year.

After seeing the proof at Intel, Doerr wanted to spread the gospel of OKRs. Measure What Matters are about achieving success by focusing on what’s important.

Key Points

An idea means nothing without a plan.

Have you ever had an idea that went nowhere? Ideas are common. Without following through, the idea is meaningless.

To turn an idea into a success, you need a structured approach. You have to know what steps to take to get from theory to reality. Designing the right plan for the right idea is the real challenge.

Doerr’s OKR management framework has a solution to this challenge. You have to break everything down into measurable accomplishments with two steps. First, you define what success looks like. This is the objective component of the OKR framework. Second, you map out how to get there. This is the key results component of the OKR framework described below.

Think of the idea as a resource that you start with. It is important and necessary, but success depends on what you do with that resource.

For the road to success, you need to know the destination and how to make sure you’re on the right path.

Doerr’s OKR system has two main parts: the objectives (O) and the key results (KR).

The objectives are the destination. This is what success looks like to you in terms of a few goals. Objectives are usually long-term and think about the big picture or the overall vision. The objectives should be inspirational, aspirational, and significant.

The key results are the landmarks on the way to the destination. You are not only measuring whether or not you get to the objective. You need targets along the way that are specific, measurable, and verifiable. You want to make sure you’re going the right way before you get too far away from the goal. Breaking down the overall goal into pieces helps keep you on track towards each objective.

You can’t be vague or ambiguous about what success means.

OKRs should have deadlines and metrics that are clear. It is a lot harder to get somewhere if you don’t really know what it is or where it is.

Use the four “superpowers” to get the most out of OKRs: focus, alignment, accountability, and stretch.

Stay focused on the objectives and key results. This means you have to commit to them and dedicate resources.

Align organizational OKRs with individual and team goals. Everyone’s work is part of the bigger picture.

Track goals and keep everyone accountable. You can monitor progress, evaluate how things are going, and reassess as needed.

Stretch for targets that aren’t easy. Guaranteed results are boring, and ambition is good as long as the goal is achievable.

For goals, it is all about quality over quantity.

It is more important to have a few, high-quality goals than many meaningless goals.

Attention should be given top priorities. If there are too many goals, you can lose focus on the ones that mean the most. This takes resources away from the priorities and less progress will be made where it counts.

Talk the talk and walk the walk. Clearly communicate what matters. Equally important? Communicate what doesn’t matter. Give the priority areas the resources to succeed and commit.

If an objective or key result isn’t meaningful, drop it.

The limited goals you have should be high-quality goals. If you focus on the wrong thing, you likely won’t get where you want to go. This applies to the objectives as well as the key results. Metrics should accurately capture progress towards the end-goal.

 When employees care, the work is better. Make them care about the big picture.

Engaged employees generally perform better. If you own the business, you likely care about its success. Everyone else may not be programmed to care about organizational growth in the same way, even if they care about their own jobs.

A team or a person that is disconnected from the core objective won’t care as much about meeting that objective. The trick is to make each role line up with the OKRs. This is done by identifying ways in which each role supports an objective or its key results. This means that the individual’s performance goals fit in with the company’s goals. Their performance contributes to achieving organizational results.

Connections with the bigger picture make the work more meaningful and satisfying. Everyone feels like they’re contributing. Not only do you get better results, but employees are less likely to leave if they’re engaged and satisfied.

If you’re connected to the bigger organization, physical space and hierarchies don’t mean as much.

Larger organizations, especially with more than one location, can feel disconnected. If you work outside of the headquarters, you may feel alienated. Clear alignment with OKRs allows you to connect, even from a distance.

Traditional management usually uses goals handed down from above. These trickle down through a hierarchy. With OKRs, your connection to the goals means that they weren’t just handed to you.

You become an active participant in the organization and not just a meaningless cog in the machine.

A goal is more likely to be attained if it isn’t a secret.

Accountability for your goals is critical. One survey of 1,000 employees in the U.S. found that 92% would be more motivated if others could see their goals and progress.

You need to write down what you’re trying to accomplish and share it with others. You’re more motivated when you’re on the hook.

Transparency also helps overcome challenges. If anyone falls behind on meeting key results, they can’t hide it. This could invite solutions from others. Teamwork and a fresh perspective can help move past the obstacles.

The best goals ask you to stretch to achieve them.

Aspirational goals are motivational. A bar set too low is boring. If the accomplishment is basically guaranteed, people aren’t engaged.

But you also need to be reasonable. If the goal is too far out of reach, you might give up because the effort doesn’t feel worth it.

The ideal OKRs are the middle ground. They’re reachable, but you just have to stretch a bit. A good bar is a goal with a 70% success rate.

Challenging goals help you innovate.

The same things over and over don’t yield better results. To meet a challenging goal, you have to improve and innovate. Stretch goals help your work become better.

Also, rethink failure when setting ambitious goals. Encourage and reward the efforts made in pursuit of success. Not achieving a goal is okay. Trying and failing can mean innovation and unexpected results.

Ditch the annual performance review. You need continuous performance management.

Annual performance reviews are traditional and not worth it. They are costly and rigid. You need recognition and feedback more than once a year. With the OKR framework, performance management is a continuous process.

Check in periodically to discuss OKRs. Transparency encourages ongoing feedback and recognition.

The continuous process helps you keep your eyes on the road. You want to make sure you’re on track. If there are challenges or delays, you’ll know sooner. This gives you a chance to adjust. Progress once a year means you might be too late to meaningfully respond to issues.

Even after an objective has been accomplished, the process doesn’t stop. A period of reflection helps you learn from the experience.

OKRs work best when they become part of the organizational culture.

Everyone needs to buy into the OKR framework. Leaders must embrace them. Managers should model taking ownership and encourage their team to do so as well.

A culture that supports OKRs means empowering everyone to work towards accomplishing them. Take every idea seriously, no matter where they came from. A good suggestion is worth your time even if it comes from someone at the bottom.

How do you make this kind of culture? Communicate the organizational values and act accordingly. OKRs frame a culture of achievement that also encourages collaboration. This gets you success as well as a healthy work environment.

You can handle a crisis better if the priorities drive the work.

If you set up the OKR framework, the organization knows the goals. When you have to adjust plans in a crisis, you already know the priorities to focus on.

Even a complete overhaul can be handled with ease. You’re used to making goals and turning them into specific objectives. You’re used to taking objectives and breaking them down into measurable key results. The organization knows how to focus, align, be accountable, and stretch.

Main Takeaways

Objectives and key results (OKRs) revolutionize performance management for organizations and teams. By focusing on a smaller set of meaningful goals, businesses can thrive. The superpowers of focus, alignment, accountability, and ambition maximize success. Replace the traditional performance relics with continuous performance management. You need to fully embrace OKRs to succeed.

About the Author

John Doerr is an American investor and venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins in Menlo Park, California. As a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, he was an economic advisor to Obama. As of 2017, Forbes ranked him 303rd richest person in the world with a net worth of 7.5 billion dollars as of February 16, 2018.

He wrote the book, Measure What Matters.

He was born in St Louis, Missouri. He graduated with a B.S and M.E.E in electrical engineering from Rice University. He later obtained his M.B.A from Harvard Business School in 1976. He started working for Intel in 1975 as a successful salesperson.

He holds several patents for memory devices.

In 1980, he started working for Kleiner Perkins. At Kleiner, he has overseen the funding of several successful technology companies such as Intuit, and Google. He serves on the boards of Google and Zynga. He led Kleiner’s $150 million investment in Twitter in 2012. He serves on the board of the Obama Foundation and ONE.org.

He founded and serves on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund, which has the goal of reforming education. He also founded Technet, a policy network of high tech CEOs that seek education and litigation reforms. He co-chaired California’s Proposition 39, which decreased the threshold to approved school bonds, and Proposition 71, which facilitated $3 billion in funding for research into stem cell therapies.

He supports climate change and clean energy. In 2007, he held a TED talk about fighting global warming.

Doerr married Ann Doerr. They have two children. He pledges to give back his fortunes to charity over his lifetime.

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