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

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In the fall of 1999, John Doerr met with the founders of a start-up whom he’d just given $12.5 million, the biggest investment of his career. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had amazing technology, entrepreneurial energy, and sky-high ambitions, but no real business plan. For Google to change the world (or even to survive), Page and Brin had to learn how to make tough choices on priorities while keeping their team on track. They’d have to know when to pull the plug on losing propositions, to fail fast. And they needed timely, relevant data to track their progress—to measure what mattered.

Doerr taught them about a proven approach to operating excellence: Objectives and Key Results. He had first discovered OKRs in the 1970s as an engineer at Intel, where the legendary Andy Grove (“the greatest manager of his or any era”) drove the best-run company Doerr had ever seen. Later, as a venture capitalist, Doerr shared Grove’s brainchild with more than fifty companies. Wherever the process was faithfully practiced, it worked.

In this goal-setting system, objectives define what we seek to achieve; key results are how those top-priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions within a set time frame. Everyone’s goals, from entry level to CEO, are transparent to the entire organization.

The benefits are profound. OKRs surface an organization’s most important work. They focus effort and foster coordination. They keep employees on track. They link objectives across silos to unify and strengthen the entire company. Along the way, OKRs enhance workplace satisfaction and boost retention.

In Measure What Matters, Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility, and explosive growth that OKRs have spurred at so many great organizations. This book will help a new generation of leaders capture the same magic.

Author: John Doerr

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4/5

“We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.”

This book was a quick, actionable, engaging read that left me feeling inspired to set goals and then go achieve them. Doerr is a leader in his field, and he writes clearly and confidently.

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It is a way of defining a) where you’re going and b) the intermediate steps that can be measured so you know you’re on your way there. This can help everyone in an organization understand true priorities and goals, and it makes it easier to choose what to spend your precious time working on.

You start with your objective and then list the key results that must happen in order to obtain that objective:

Objective: Growprofits in Q3
Key Result: Increase sales by 10%
Key Result: Trim expenses by 5%
Key Result: Get 1,000 new customers

In a company, those key results can then move down the funnel:

Objective: Increase sales by 10% (formerly a key result)
Key Result: Send sales team members on 3 sales call per day
Key Result: Achieve 10% return on advertising spend
Key Result: Decrease conversion processing time by 25%

I really liked the structure of the book. The concept of OKRs is pleasingly simple to grasp—that’s kind of the point, after all—so Doerr doesn’t need to spend chapters and chapters helping you get it. Instead, he lets other leaders speak for themselves, telling of the ways their own organizations use OKRs, the challenges they faced along the way, and the results they achieved. These aren’t simple endorsements; they’re complex examples that really shed light on everything Doerr teaches.

As I read, my mind kept wandering to ways I can better use OKRs in my own career and life. And what more do you want from a book like this?

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