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

by John Doerr

Our Main Take-Away:

The true potential of an organization is realized when the leadership puts in place a system, top-down and bottom-up, that sets a few very clear “Objectives” and measures them with quantifiable and time-driven, “Key Results”. The author uses many case-study examples where the founders and leaders of companies, foundations, and organizations were able to significantly change the trajectory and influence of their business through the use of the “Objectives and Key Results (OKR)” and Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFR)” strategies.

By examining these case studies of several different organizational venues, the reader is able to develop a picture of how these exceptionally effective strategies can focus their business and create a lasting culture of success.

Reasons to Read:

Identifying effective strategies that allow companies, both large and small, to focus their collective efforts and measure the effectiveness of their work, is the desire of nearly every business leader. In this engaging book, John Doerr takes the reader inside the pivotal moments in the development of several very well-known businesses. He illustrates and explains the turning point for each which allowed them to operate in a manner that unleashed the full potential of their business model.

The history of the OKR strategy traces its roots back to Andy Grove, a penniless immigrant to the US after World War II who went on to lead the Intel corporation and capture a huge share of the micro-processor market. By “measuring what matters” he was able to bring focus and intention to the direction of Intel during a very critical time. Doerr then adopted the ideas and refined them further into the OKR strategy he shares with some of the world’s most successful companies. His mantra of “Ideas are easy, execution is everything” underlies his premise for the book.

Throughout the book, Objectives are defined as “what is to be achieved”. They are explained as needing to be significant, action oriented, and inspiring goals. Key Results are defined as “how you get the objective done”. These must be measurable, specific, verifiable, aggressive in nature and achievable in a set timeframe. The author takes great pains to explain the importance of making the OKRs transparent and public throughout the company. He highly encourages the setting of objectives to be both “top down and bottom up”. He attributes some of the effectiveness of the strategy to the authentic nature of the shared objectives and the clear way that the review of success and failure takes place in a process of self and team reflection.

The book speaks to “Conversations, Feedback and Recognition” as a proactive method of regular employee/supervisor interaction that replaces the traditional yearly performance review. Several examples in the book show how the CFR process aligns with, and directly supports the OKR strategy. The goal of the CFR process is to empower team members, to encourage them to take ownership for their growth and goals, to carefully align their work with the goals of the team and to be reflective in their process. The author gives examples of companies that make this meeting sacrosanct and ensure that the CFR conversations occur on cycles no longer than six weeks in duration. The rationale of authentic communication between leader and team member, in a timeframe which makes such conversations more formative rather than summative, challenges long established business norms and again, aligns with the company commitment to OKR.

book is helpful for leaders who are in the process of clarifying the direction of their company. Their business may be growing and the earlier systems that are in place no longer serve. The business may be changing direction and thus presented with a requirement of getting all team members moving forward together. The need to better coordinate teams and make the goals of the organization more transparent to the team members, emerges throughout the case-studies presented. The use of OKR and CFR in combination, as an effort to more effectively focus the organization on the “what”, the “how”, and the “why” of the business, is worth further study by any leader.

The particular examples of Google, The Gates Foundation, and the foundation Bono leads for the betterment of Africa, are specific examples of how the system has proven itself effective in very high-profile settings. Several other examples of how small businesses with very innovative ideas, such as a popular fitness app and a Medicare cloud-based information platform, use the method to align their teams, focus the work and thoughtfully deal with change. Most importantly the leaders, whose stories are told, speak to the value of the OKR and CFR process with helping to create and supporting a collaborative culture within their organizations. Throughout the book the impact of Measuring what Matters returns again and again to what can be accomplished in an aligned organization with a positive and supportive culture

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Amazon Summary:

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Legendary venture capitalist John Doerr reveals how the goal-setting system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has helped tech giants from Intel to Google achieve explosive growth—and how it can help any organization thrive.

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.

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