A good friend and fellow entrepreneur recommended to me Measure What Matters by John Doerr, and I recently finished reading it. I thought it was a very comprehensive and helpful overview of implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in a company from the ground up.
It reminded me a lot of the books Work Rules by Laszlo Bock and How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, which I read previously and also enjoyed.
Measure What Matters was consistent with what I saw and experienced first hand with OKRs during my time at Google. I didn't know the history of OKRs and how Andy Grove really built up the foundations behind the methodology at Intel, so that was nice to learn. I also enjoyed a lot of the varied stories and examples of how diverse groups and companies (including rock bands and foundations) have implemented OKRs successfully and the positive impact on their culture.
Below are my notes and major takeaways from the book, which I highly recommend. I look forward to implementing these processes at Epirus.
Part 1: okrs in action
1 google meet okrs
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might never get there (yogi Berra)
Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.
Objectives and key results
Objective is what is to be achieved. Simple, action oriented, inspirational.
Key results monitor progress to that. Objective, numerical, aggressive but realistic. Measurable. Verifiable. Binary as to if met it or not.
Quarterly updating. Objectives can last a year but KRs evolve each quarter based on progress to objective
Snippets: short weekly individual updates on progress towards OKRs
Companion website to book: whatmatters.com
2 the father of OKRs
Objective is direction/goal
Key result is metric and milestone. 100% objective and numerical. Zero judgment and very easy to know if achieved or not.
Bottom up, sideways
Transparent. Everyone can see everyone’s OKRs.
Not tied to comp
Aggressive and aspirational
Less is more. 3-5 Os per cycle. 3-5 key results per O.
From the bottom
Can be flexible mid-cycle
Dare to fail. OK if don’t achieve everything. Aspirational. Stretch goals.
A tool not a weapon. Not legal document on which to base performance review.
Be patient. Need 4-5 quarters to really internalize in an org.
3 operation crush
4 superpower 1: focus and commit to priorities
Pair key results that are objective/numerical with quality goals
Pair quantity goals with quality goals
Put more wood behind fewer arrows
Need executive team buy-in
7 superpower 2 align and connect for teamwork
Switch to open/transparent
Key results can be cascaded down to each lower level as objectives
Can also skip levels or do bottom up
Top OKRs known but rest are bottom up and market-based
Mix of top down and bottom up goals half and half
OKRs can create networks
10 superpower 3 track for accountability
OKR management platform
0-1 scale for each
0.7-1 is green
0.4-0.6 is yellow
0-0.3 is red
0.7 green shows goals should be ambitious/stretch
Operational goals must be 1.0 or else deemed a failure/red
Self-assessments objective and subjective
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.
Retrospective and prospective
12 superpower 4: stretch for amazing
Big hairy audacious goals
If companies don’t innovate, they will die. Innovate not iterate.
Entrepreneurs are those that do more with less than others think is possible. Bureaucrats do less with more than others think is possible.
Aspirational stretch goals
Committed vs aspirational objectives
Committed ones are related to products, hiring, sales, operations. They must be achieved 100%.
Aspirational are stretch and more than you think is possible. Higher risk.
Balance between the two varies by quarter and by company
Incentivizing salespeople with Tahiti trip for 2 for meeting stretch goal and any stragglers would cause their entire office to lose the trip
Gospel of 10X by Larry page
A healthy disregard for the impossible
Big rocks, pebbles, and sand theory of time management
Part 2 the new world of work
15 continuous performance management
Annual reviews at the end of the year suboptimal
CFRs: conversations, feedback, and recognition
Regular 1:1s mandatory
Objective: mutual teaching
Should be regarded as the subordinate’s meeting with agenda set by him
Supervisor just facilitates discussion of tough issues and struggles of subordinate
5 critical areas of conversation
Goal setting and reflection
Ongoing progress updates
What’s working well and not
Two way coaching
Lightweight performance reviews
Held apart from annual compensation review
Are these the right things to focus on?
Do you have any feedback on how we could stretch even more?
Needs to be specific
You started the meeting late last week and it came off as disorganized
You did a great job at your presentation with a strong opening story and closing with next steps
What do you need from me to be successful
Anonymous rating and suggestion tools
Saying thank you in small ways
Institute peer to peer recognition
Friday closing meeting ends with shout outs unsolicited
Hail small achievements and extra efforts too
16 ditching annual reviews
Regular check-ins throughout the year
Feedback frequent and untied to annual bonuses
Annual bonuses decided by manager based on performance and various things but disjoint for feedback session
17 getting better every day
Liquidplanner project management software
“My KR is at risk” is a way of communicating and getting attention
Periodic Check ins where discussing work isn’t allowed and focus is on individual and career
What makes you very happy
What saps your energy
How would you describe your dream job
Always tell the truth
Always do the right thing
This goal seems very important to you, but you didn’t make much progress on it over the past couple weeks. Why is that?
Best idea wins culture. Can call out anyone including CEO.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Creates efficiency since everyone on the same page
Values, objectives, and methods
Can spell them out and can exemplify them
Pulsing: online quick surveys for health of culture
Weekly or monthly or ongoing drip campaign
19 culture change
Selling your reds: handing off at risk goals to another group to take on as team. I’m here, let me help you.
20 culture change. Bono.
21 the goals to come
Bill Campbell coach
Get better everyday
Resource 1 google OKR playbook
Objectives are the what’s. Key results are the hows.
Key results must describe outcomes and effects on stakeholders, not activities
Cross team OKRs must be listed on each team’s OKRs
Committed vs. aspirational
Committed expected score 1
Aspirational expected score 0.7
Don’t write business as usual or timid aspirational OKRs
Don’t sandbag. Should consume more than available resources.
Don’t do low value objectives. Who cares?
Escalating is required when committed OKRs at risk
Aspirational OKRs are what you spend time on after committed ones done. OK to move quarter to quarter when not completed.
Crisp and short lines
Focus on end impact like improving sign ups 25%
Resource 2 OKR cycle graphic
Resource 3 performance conversations
What OKRs will you focus on?
How is progress going towards your OKRs?
Anything stopping you from obtaining your objectives?
What part your job excites you? What part of your role would you like to change?
What are you getting from me that’s helpful? What are you getting from me that impedes your effectiveness?
What skills or capabilities would you like to develop in your current role? For a future role?
Resource 4 the book in sum
Quarterly and annual OKRs
First roll out to upper management then to individuals
Designate an OKR shepherd
Pick 3-5 top objectives
For each O, pick no more than 5 time-bound measurable key results
Pair qualitative and quantitative key results for quality control
Half of OKRs bottom up
Weekly 1:1 OKR meetings with managers and monthly departmental meetings
Grade past OKRs at each cycle end
Invest in cloud based platform
Stretch for amazing BHAG
Committed OKRs too
Gospel of 10X
Continuous performance management
Allow contributor to set agenda of 1:1
Anonymous pulse surveys
Importance of cultural values
Resource 5 further reading
High output management
Andy grove: Life and times of an American
In the plex, how google works, work rules
Radical focus (short book on OKRs)
Book “how” by Dov