Reading “Measure What Matters”. Part I

Some notes while reading it. I started reading Measure What Matters by John Doerr. Here I’d like to share my notes as an exercise of what matters.

Part One: OKRs in Action

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.

Yogi Berra

Where an objective can be long-lived, rolled over for a year or longer, key results evolve as the work progresses. Once they are all completed, the objective is necessarily achieved. (And if it isn’t, the OKR was poorly designed in the first place.)


In October 2018, for the seventy-fifth consecutive quarter, Google’s CEO will lead the entire company to evaluate its progress against top-level objectives and key results. In November and December, each team and product area will develop its own plans for the coming year and distill them into OKRs. The following January, as CEO Sundar Pichai told me, “We’ll go back in front of the company and articulate, ‘This is our high-level strategy, and here are the OKRs we have written for the year.’” (In accordance with company tradition, the executive team will also grade Google’s OKRs from the prior year, with failures unblinkingly dissected.)

Set goals from the bottom up. To promote engagement, teams and individuals should be encouraged to create roughly half of their own OKRs, in consultation with managers. When all goals are set top-down, motivation is corroded. (See chapter 7, “Superpower #2: Align and Connect for Teamwork.”)

(…)Stay flexible. If the climate has changed and an objective no longer seems practical or relevant as written, key results can be modified or even discarded mid-cycle. (See chapter 10, “Superpower #3: Track for Accountability.”)

(…)There’s only one company competing with us, and that’s Motorola. The 68000 is the competition. We have to kill Motorola, that’s the name of the game. We have to crush the f — king bastards. We’re gonna roll over Motorola and make sure they don’t come back again.

What are our main priorities for the coming period? Where should people concentrate their efforts?
As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner likes to say, “When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it.”
Key results are the levers you pull, the marks you hit to achieve the goal.
(…)each key result should be a challenge in its own right.
If you’re certain you’re going to nail it, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.
“put more wood behind fewer arrows.”
They(OKRs) kept me from backsliding or micromanaging.
Remind is on its way to solving that problem — by focusing on what matters.
Doing too much too soon will definitely end in pain.

Instead of reacting to external events on the fly, we’re acting purposefully on our plans for each quarter
We don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
In an OKR system, the most junior staff can look at everyone’s goals, on up to the CEO.

OKRs make objectives objective, in black and white.
A lack of alignment, according to a poll of global CEOs, is the number-one obstacle between strategy and execution.

  • A loss of agility.
  • A lack of flexibility.
  • Marginalized contributors.
  • One-dimensional linkages.

The most powerful OKRs typically stem from insights outside the C-suite.
Connected companies are quicker companies.
Not coincidentally, those organizations shared something else in common: a glaring lack of alignment.
Co-ownership weakens accountability.

Even when two or more teams have parallel objectives, their key results should be distinct.
Don’t worry about monthly active user impact on this one. Just build the best feature you can. We want you to swing for the fences
First, we had to define our capacity constraints for developing new software.
Then we had to clarify our core priorities. By sharing our high-level OKRs for Connected Fitness, I could explain why certain projects required the allocated time, and where we should be doubling down on the company’s top goals. “This is the process we use,” I said, “and I’m showing you our objectives and key results. You need to let me know if you see anything missing.
Each quarter, Intuit’s IT group tackles about 2,500 active objectives.

“What is the CIO doing if his goals never change?
One underrated virtue of OKRs is that they can be tracked — and then revised or adapted as circumstances dictate.
The best-in-class platforms feature mobile apps, automatic updating, analytics reporting tools, real-time alerts, and integration with Salesforce, JIRA, and Zendesk.
They drive engagement. When you know you’re working on the right things, it’s easier to stay motivated.

They promote internal networking. A transparent platform steers individuals to colleagues with shared professional interests.

They save time, money, and frustration. In conventional goal setting, hours are wasted digging for documentation in meeting notes, emails, Word documents, and PowerPoint slides. With an OKR management platform, all relevant information is ready when you are.

“The single greatest motivator is ‘making progress in one’s work.’
OKRs are adaptable by nature. They’re meant to be guardrails, not chains or blinders. As we track and audit our OKRs, we have four options at any point in the cycle:

Continue: If a green zone (“on track”) goal isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Update: Modify a yellow zone (“needs attention”) key result or objective to respond to changes in the workflow or external environment.

What could be done differently to get the goal on track? Does it need a revised time line? Do we back-burner other initiatives to free up resources for this one?

  • Start: Launch a new OKR mid-cycle, whenever the need arises.
  • Stop: When a red zone (“at risk”) goal has outlived its usefulness, the best solution may be to drop it.
    Whenever a key result or objective becomes obsolete or impractical, feel free to end it midstream.
    Our goals are servants to our purpose, not the other way around.
    When an objective gets dropped before the end of the OKR interval, it’s important to notify everyone depending on it.
    OKRs are scrutinized several times per quarter by contributors and their managers. Progress is reported, obstacles identified, key results refined.
  • 0.7 to 1.0 = green. (We delivered.)
  • 0.4 to 0.6 = yellow. (We made progress, but fell short of completion.)
  • 0.0 to 0.3 = red. (We failed to make real progress.)
    /Did I accomplish all of my objectives? If so, what contributed to my success?/
    /If not, what obstacles did I encounter?/
    /If I were to rewrite a goal achieved in full, what would I change? * What have I learned that might alter my approach to the next cycle’s OKRs?/

Two OKR Baskets Google divides its OKRs into two categories, committed goals and aspirational (or “stretch”) goals. It’s a distinction with a real difference. Committed objectives are tied to Google’s metrics: product releases, bookings, hiring, customers. Management sets them at the company level, employees at the departmental level. In general, these committed objectives — such as sales and revenue goals — are to be achieved in full (100 percent) within a set time frame.
Aspirational objectives reflect bigger-picture, higher-risk, more future-tilting ideas. They originate from any tier and aim to mobilize the entire organization. By definition, they are challenging to achieve. Failures — at an average rate of 40 percent — are part of Google’s territory. The relative weighting of these two baskets is a cultural question. It will vary from one organization to the next, and from quarter to quarter. Leaders must ask themselves: What type of company do we need to be in the coming year?
Agile and daring, to crack a new market — or more conservative and operational, to firm up our existing position? Are we in survival mode, or is there cash on hand to bet big for a big reward? What does our business require, right now?

The Gospel of 10x If Andy Grove is the patron saint of aspirational OKRs, Larry Page is their latter-day high priest.

Google, in line with Andy Grove’s old standard, aspirational OKRs are set at 60 to 70 percent attainment. In other words, performance is expected to fall short at least 30 percent of the time. And that’s considered success!
The reward of having met one of these challenging goals is that you get to play again.

Google OKR: “We should make the web as fast as flipping through a magazine.”
No company is too young to adopt OKRs, and for no company is it too late.

  • Conversations: an authentic, richly textured exchange between manager and contributor, aimed at driving performance
  • Feedback: bidirectional or networked communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement
  • Recognition: expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes
    “On the other hand, if you don’t have goals, what the heck are you talking about?
    When companies replace — or at least augment — the annual review with ongoing conversations and real-time feedback, they’re better able to make improvements throughout the year.

What are you working on?

  • How are you doing; how are your OKRs coming along?
  • Is there anything impeding your work?
  • What do you need from me to be (more) successful?
  • How do you need to grow to achieve your career goals?
    But when goals are used and abused to set compensation, employees can be counted on to sandbag. They start playing defense; they stop stretching for amazing. They get bored for lack of challenge. And the organization suffers most of all.
    (…)is mutual teaching and exchange of information. By talking about specific problems and situations, the supervisor teaches the subordinate his skills and know-how, and suggests ways to approach things. At the same time, the subordinate provides the supervisor with detailed information about what he is doing and what he is concerned about …. A key point about a one-on-one: It should be regarded as the subordinate’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him …. The supervisor is there to learn and coach. The supervisor should also encourage the discussion of heart-to-heart issues during one-on-ones, because this is the perfect forum for getting at subtle and deep work-related problems affecting his subordinate. Is he satisfied with his own performance? Does some frustration or obstacle gnaw at him? Does he have doubts about where he is going?
    Goal setting and reflection, where the employee’s OKR plan is set for the coming cycle. The discussion focuses on how best to align individual objectives and key results with organizational priorities. Ongoing progress updates, the brief and data-driven check-ins on the employee’s real-time progress, with problem solving as needed. Two-way coaching, to help contributors reach their potential and managers do a better job. Career growth, to develop skills, identify growth opportunities, and expand employees’ vision of their future at the company. Lightweight performance reviews, a feedback mechanism to gather inputs and summarize what the employee has accomplished since the last meeting, in the context of the organization’s needs. (As noted earlier, this conversation is held apart from an employee’s annual compensation/bonus review.)
    /“Feedback is an opinion, grounded in observations and experiences, which allows us to know what impression we make on others.”/
    /They want to provide feedback to their managers, not wait for a year to receive feedback from their managers./
    /What do you need from me to be successful? And now let me tell you what I need from you./

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