Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth by John Doerr

Summary

  1. OKR stands for “objectives and key results.” They are important in that they help drive good ideas forward by gaining clarity, transparency, and accountability. They are a collaborative goal setting structure for individuals, teams, organizations, or anything else. Objectives are what we want to get done – they must be concrete, actionable, and hopefully inspiring. They are a vaccine for fuzzy thinking and action. The key results are how we determine and measure the progress of getting to an objective. The results must be verifiable and have a number attached to them. Specific hard goals push people and if you have verifiable measures of progress you can hold them accountable. Goals create alignment, engagement, meaning, and fulfillment if done correctly. They’ll align people within a company and clarify what is most important, they break down silos, and help people communicate in the same language. They are meant to help communicate, measure, and achieve lofty goals.

Key Takeaways

  1. OKRs have four superpowers: Focus, Align, Track, and Stretch (FATS)
    1. Focus
      1. Setting objectives gives people a clear path on what to work on and what success looks like. Key results help indicate success and progress since there is a clear benchmark for what ‘success’ means for each objective 
      2. When people help set the objectives they are more likely to follow through
      3. Hand-in-hand with focus is a deep commitment. If you waiver or switch priorities often, you will waste time and confuse your team
      4. Objectives should be one line and clearly understandable. The key results must be objective and measurable
    2. Align
      1. OKRs allow teams to move very quickly as it is clear what the priorities are and ensures everybody is moving in the same direction
      2. Transparency is the key and modern goal setting people allow people to buy in and gives management has a clear idea of what people are working on and why.
      3. Objectives get people to flush out their hesitations or frustrations which helps foster communication and collaboration.  
      4. Alignment is extremely important but hard to come by and is the biggest lever to go from strategy to execution – if people don’t know the business model and what they’re doing to help the company succeed, it is hard for them to go all-in and know what they’re supposed to be working on.
      5. In addition, this transparency allows for the whole company to weigh in on the best objectives. The best objectives tend to come outside the C-suite, coming from the front line employees who have the best access to accurate information and changing trends.
      6. You also get more people thinking about the same problems – flushing out ideas, making connections that otherwise might not have been made, and getting cross-division collaboration
    3. Track
      1. OKRs are living and breathing goals, evolving and adapting with the needs of the company. OKRs are meant to be adaptive guardrails, not strict rules to follow.
      2. The OKRs have to be visible and related to daily, or else they fade into irrelevance. 
      3. Making progress in public goals is one of people’s most motivating factors. You need to write them down and follow up on them often
      4. The constant monitoring and making sure that you’re working on the right thing at the right time is more important than the actual objectives
      5. Expectations are easier to set across groups and fewer surprises can be expected when OKRs are set and tracked accordingly 
      6. Post-mortem: OKRs aren’t done even when completed. You can go through a post-mortem: objective scoring (are the objectives themselves valuable and correct?
      7. Google measures each one in a 0 to 1 scale, with anything above .7 being considered successful, subjective self-assessment, and reflection (what contributed to success, what obstacles did I face)
    4. Stretch
      1. Google adheres to and goes after the 10 X improvement. It requires a new way of thinking and a lot of courage to go for 1000% change vs. a 10% change
      2. A stretch goal cannot seem like a long arch to nowhere and it cannot be imposed from the top down, with no basing in reality. Employee buy-in is essential and leaders have to show that they think the objective is important and obtainable
  2. CFR
    1. Conversation – Feedback – Recognition
    2. OKRs set the direction and give clarity, CFRs provide the fuel to get there. They work hand-in-hand and help boost each other up. Continuous performance management rather than quarterly or annually
    3. A manager’s first job is a personal one – to build a deep and trusting relationship with all of their people. The quarterly feedback which is common and most companies is outdated and eats up a lot of time.
    4. CFR is an updated way to give your people feedback – building trust and pushing them to learn and grow.
    5. They help boost OKRs since people can go all-in, knowing that what they’re working on is important and getting appropriate feedback and recognition for their hard work.
    6. Conversation 
      1. It is important for managers to have one on one meetings with their people – the employee must set the tone and agenda, driving the conversation, but the manager must make themselves open and available to discuss and meet with them. This should help the employee with goal setting and objectives, help them look at their progress and areas where they can improve, enable two-way coaching, future career development, and lightweight performance reviews
    7. Feedback
      1. Feedback must be timely and specific in order to be effective
      2. Without consistent feedback it is very hard to know if you’re moving in the right direction and how you’re progressing
      3. Ask new employees – what they love, what drains them, what their ideal job would look like. Make it clear that the expectation is that they will always tell the truth and do the right thing, and that you’ll do the same
      4. Upward feedback – what are you getting from me that is helpful/harmful? What can I do for you to make you more successful?
      5. Career development – what skills or capabilities would you like to develop? In what areas would you like to develop and how can I help you get there?
    8. Recognition
      1. Continuous recognition is a huge driver of engagement and employee satisfaction. 
      2. Institute peer to peer recognition 
      3. Establish clear criteria – projects finished, values lived out, etc. Replace employee of the month with achievement of the month 
      4. Share recognition stories – blog or newsletter
      5. Recognition should be simple and attainable 
      6. Tie recognition into company goals and strategies – customer satisfaction, product launch…
  3. Other
    1. Ideas are easy execution is hard – OKRs help turn bold and audacious ideas into sustainable, scalable, and repeatable processes
    2. About 3 to 5 OKRs per quarter is about right. 
    3. There should be one sole owner for each OKR or else you dilute ownership and accountability
    4. Don’t confuse your mission with your objectives. Your mission is the direction you want to go and your objectives are the steps you need to take to get there. The mission should be extremely aspirational and the objectives more obtainable. This process allows you to be ambitious yet realistic
    5. Doerr’s favorite quote or definition of entrepreneur is “someone who does more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible”
    6. It is important to have rules from the start. Just like trying to give a teenager rules when there were none as a child, it will be difficult to implement after the fact
    7. The best turnover is internal turnover, where people move to different roles within the company to grow and learn
    8. The adoption period can be difficult and take up to a year, but it is worth it. It has to come from the top and everyone has to buy-in
    9. Culture is the only thing which can’t be commoditized or copied 
    10. Conviction and buy-in from leaders is most important to make this process work
    11. Should establish both ambitious and incremental OKRs

What I got out of it

  1. Some great, actionable takeaways on how to think about and establish OKRs, and why that’s important. CFRs is another great idea to take to heart and implement. Simple but definitely not easy