This is one of those rare books that I heard rave reviews from friends in a diversity of sectors: startup technology companies, higher education and nonprofits. Measure What Matters by John Doerr is a book that describes the powerful concept of OKRs: Objectives and Key Results. John is the Chairman of Kleiner Perkins, which is a very successful venture capital firm. I heartily recommend this book to you. Below are 7 quotes and my takeaways from this treasure trove of a book.
1. “Objectives and Key Results are the yin and yang of goal setting.” OKRs are a simple concept that have fueled the success of Google, the Gates Foundation and Bono's ONE Campaign to end poverty. John describes in detail how you too can set compelling Objectives (the yin) and Key Results (the yang) for your organization. Objectives are what you want to achieve and Key Results are how you are going to achieve the objectives. Google generously shares in depth how they use OKRs at this link.
2 . “Healthy culture and structured goal setting are interdependent.” This book does a terrific job of explaining how structured goal setting actually improves an organization's culture. Employees want to know what goals they should be working on to move the organization forward. OKRs provide a framework for every employee to be involved in an organization's success. This process improves culture.
3. “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.” This quote from the book reminds me of Simon Sinek's TED Talk and terrific book, Start With Why. Employees are indeed thirsting for meaning in their work, and OKRs are a simple yet effective framework for employees to see how their work directly contributes to the organization's success.
4. “We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” The book describes how you ideally want only 3 to 5 Objectives and then 3 to 5 Key Results for each Objective. Less is more. You want a few focused OKRs that are measurable, transparent, inspirational and achievable - with some stretch to achieve them. This concept of focus in goal setting reminds me of the terrific book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, which I reviewed at this link.
5. “Innovation tends to dwell less at the center of an organization than at its edges.” I absolutely love this quote and agree with it. Oftentimes leaders of organizations might think they have all of the answers, and won't listen to their front line employees. I have learned that often the opposite is true: the front line employees have the answers and the leaders simply need to stop and listen to them. OKRs are a way that front line employees can be engaged in an organization's goals and be heard by leaders.
6. “To win in the global marketplace, organizations needs to be more nimble than ever before.” Gone are the days of setting 3, 5 or 10-year strategic plans and thinking those will stand the test of time. Even in one-year goal setting, changes to the plan will come your way. OKRs advocate quarterly goals to be nimble. Every 90 days you set and review your OKRs. I think there is a lot of wisdom in thinking about "90-day sprints" in goal setting. Traction by Gino Wickman is another terrific book that advocates quarterly goal setting.
7. “Annual performance reviews are costly, exhausting, and mostly futile.” I was pleasantly surprised to see this book discuss performance reviews in light of the concept of OKRs. Instead of annual reviews, the book advocates the use of real-time CFRs: Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition. This is a process where you are having real-time conversations with your employees, giving them feedback right away and recognizing achievements when they happen. This builds culture and buy-in from employees more than the typical annual performance review process.
Check out John's 12-minute TED Talk below, which gives a great overview of the book:
Lastly, listen to this book on Audible if you can. Author John Doerr reads the book, but he also integrates in readers for their sections of the book, such as Bono reading about OKRs and the ONE Campaign to end poverty. It is fun to hear a rock star talk about Objectives and Key Results! :) There are also readers from Google, the Gates Foundation, and other tech startups in the book. This is a really well done audiobook.
Bonus: My internet friend Nick Gray wrote a great summary of this book, too. You can see it here: Measure What Matters by John Doerr – Book Club Discussion
Have you read this book? Are you utilizing the concept of OKRs at your organization? How is it going? Please share in the comments section below, thanks!