Book Notes #52: Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Measure What Matters reveals how the goal-setting system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has helped tech giants to succeed.

Title: Measure What Matters
Author: John Doerr
Year: 2018
Pages: 320

How can your business make the tough choices that will ensure its survival? 

How do you keep your teams on track while encouraging employees to be fully engaged, even in times of stress and challenge?

As a business manager, you know that achieving breakthrough results requires a clear and measurable plan. 

In this bestselling book called Measure What Matters, John Doerr shares his proven methodology for setting and achieving big goals, known as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). 

Through real-life examples and practical advice, Measure What Matters shows how OKRs can help you to focus on your most important priorities, create a culture of accountability, and drive breakthrough performance in your organization. 

As a result, I gave this book a rating of 8.5/10.

For me, a book with a note 10 is one I consider reading again every year. Among the books I rank with 10, for example, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Book Overview

Reading “Measure What Matters” is an investment in your professional development that will pay off in measurable results.

The Objectives and Key Results system, pioneered at Intel and perfected at Google, gives an organization timely and highly relevant data to track its progress.

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. 

Wherever the process was faithfully practised, it worked.

Measure What Matters is a book by John Doerr that advocates for the use of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as a method for setting and tracking progress toward goals. 

Measure What Matters argues that OKRs can help managers and leaders to focus their teams on the most important initiatives, align efforts across the organization, and measure progress in a clear and actionable way. 

Many readers of Measure What Matters have found it to be a useful tool for implementing OKRs in their own organizations and for achieving better results.

My Book Highlights & Quotes

As Jim Collins observes in Good to Great, first you need to get “the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” Only then do you turn the wheel and step on the gas

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything

OKRs surface your primary goals. They channel efforts and coordination. They link diverse operations, lending purpose and unity to the entire organization

Goals may cause systematic problems in organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behaviour, increased risk-taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased motivation

OKRs are a shared language for execution. They clarify expectations: What do we need to get done (and fast), and who’s working on it? They keep employees aligned, vertically and horizontally

Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. Their people need more than milestones for motivation. They are thirsting for meaning, to understand how their goals relate to the mission. And the process can’t stop with unveiling top-line OKRs at a quarterly all-hands meeting. As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner likes to say, ‘When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it

People who choose their destination will own a deeper awareness of what it takes to get there

Annual performance reviews are costly, exhausting, and mostly futile

Business leaders have learned that individuals cannot be reduced to numbers

Continuous recognition is a powerful driver of engagement…”

By clearing the line of sight to everyone’s objectives, OKRs expose redundant efforts and save time and money

Transparency seeds collaboration

Nothing moves us forward like a deadline

Objectives and key results are the yin and yang of goal setting

OKRs are clear vessels for leaders’ priorities and insights

When people have conflicting priorities or unclear, meaningless, or arbitrarily shifting goals, they become frustrated, cynical, and demotivated

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

Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. Their people need more than milestones for motivation. They are thirsting for meaning, to understand how their goals relate to the mission

Early on in your career, when you’re an individual contributor, you’re graded on the volume and quality of your work. Then one day, all of a sudden, you’re a manager. Let’s assume you do well and move up to manage more and more people. Now you’re no longer paid for the amount of work you do; you’re paid for the quality of decisions you make

An effective goal-setting system starts with disciplined thinking at the top, with leaders who invest the time and energy to choose what counts

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. 

The wrong goals can be detrimental to an organization. The OKR process helps you set the right goals, but it must be used carefully. Sending people in the wrong direction or incentivizing the wrong behaviour through goals can be wildly harmful to an organization.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): A management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization. 

Objective: a short, inspirational, and achievable statement that describes WHAT you want to achieve. Objectives are a “vaccine against fuzzy thinking and fuzzy execution.”

Key Results: succinct, specific, and measurable actions that map out HOW you will achieve your Objectives. KRs are aggressive but realistic.

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. 

Key Ideas from Measure What Matters

The importance of setting clear and measurable goals: The OKR framework is designed to help organizations focus on their most important priorities and achieve breakthrough results.

The power of creating a culture of accountability: Doerr emphasizes the importance of creating a culture in which everyone is held accountable for achieving their goals.

The role of transparency in goal-setting: The OKR framework is built on the principle of transparency, which helps to ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

The need for regular check-ins and adjustments: According to Doerr, the OKR process is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous cycle of setting, tracking, and adjusting goals.

The importance of setting ambitious goals: Measure What Matters encourages organizations to set ambitious goals that stretch their capabilities and inspire them to achieve more than they thought possible.

Real-life examples and case studies: Measure What Matters shares real-life examples and case studies from companies that have successfully implemented OKRs, such as Google, Intel, and Bono.

High-performance organizations focus on the work that is important and are just as clear on what doesn’t matter. OKRs are precision tools that dispel confusion and give the focus needed to win for departments, teams, and individuals.

Measure What Matters will help a new generation of leaders capture the same magic.

Want to take your business or organization to the next level? Look no further than OKRs and have a look into Measure What Matters! 

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a powerful goal-setting methodology that helps organizations to focus on their most significant priorities, create a culture of accountability, and drive breakthrough results. 

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