← Back to the listFebruary 12, 20203 mins read — business, goals

Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters

by John Doerr


It is important that you always have clear defined objectives, visible to everyone who might be interested in them. It is even more important to have your key results, that are aiming to lead to your objectives, and your objectives themselves, measureable to make sure whatever you’re working on actually has the effect you are after. OKRs give you a framework to ensure this in very efficient ways, that also scales well.


The idea

The problem

Companies, small and large, have common problems when it comes to achieving their goals:

  • people do not work on the right thing(s)
  • people do not know what others are doing/are working on
  • people do not know when they are making progress
  • people do not know if they accomplished what needed to be accomplished

This leads to inefficiency and often a lack of morale and engagement of the people working for a company towards the company goals themselves. In this book John Doerr describes how he took the idea of OKRs from Intel to companies like Google, and points out what some keys to success are when using OKRs.

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. The idea is that you define broad objectives (the general thing you want to achieve, usually for a time span between 3 - 12 months) and then add key results to those objectives, that in a bit more granuality describe how to achieve the goal. With this framwork, deciding what you should be working on should become a lot easier, because you can always use these objectives and key results as guidance: does it support them? Great! Does it not, then you should probably do something else instead.

OKRs cascade down

In a company, the company wide objectives and key results should cascade down to the teams, which then set their own OKRs based on the top level ones, and from there maybe even down to the individuals settings their personal OKRs. However far you want to go, the cascading of the top level OKRs is important to make sure everyone is aligned, without having to dictate everyone what to do.

If teams define their own objectives that help towards the company OKRs, they will feel empowered and are more likely to be engaged with those OKRs of their own. It also leads to accountability, especially in combination with measuring your outcomes.

The OKR superpowers

John Doerr’s points to 4-key values, or “OKR superpowers”, good OKRs should have:

  • Focus the organization on what matters
  • Alignment to work and connect in teams
  • Measure progress towards our goals and be acountable for outcomes
  • Stretch to achieve things you wouldn’t have thought possible

Some personal key learnings

Some key learnings for me from this are around what is needed to make progress and success actually happen:

  • Conversations - you need to to have a lot of those to make sure everyone understands what you’re tryinng to achieve
  • Data - you need A LOT of it, you need to ideally be able to measure the impact on everything you do, so if you don’t have it in place, start collecting!
  • Progress - no progress without progress, you cannot be successful if you’re trying to solve the problem of today with the way you did it yesterday without iterating over it
  • Communication - objectives need to be communicated, they need to be transparent and accessible to everyone, but even more than that they need to be communicated in a way that doesn’t require specific domain knowledge of the team setting them, everyone needs to be able to understand them

Good objectives:

  • should be inspirational - you want everyone in the company to be able to relate to them and rally behind them
  • shouldn’t be one dimensional - plainly focusing on sales and profit won’t get you there

Good key results:

  • need to be measurable - you need to be able to tell wheather or not the actions you take actually contrubute positively to your objectives and key results
  • should ideally be based on existing data - e.g. instead of saying I want to sell x, you should say I want to increase sales by x percent
  • should not lock you down to certain activities - the whole point of OKRs is to

Some interesting further reads and stories around OKRs: https://www.whatmatters.com/