John Doerr’s “Measure What Matters” – book review

I tend to think of John Doerr’s Measure what Matters as “the OKR book”.

What are OKRs?

The acronym stands for Objectives Key Results. It’s a framework for managing people: through making them manage themselves. I see two reasons why you might want to read this book:

  1. You’re in management and you’re trying to better manage your company
  2. You’re working in a company and your boss is implementing OKRs.

Basically the idea is that the managers come up with 3-5 goals for the entire company. To make sure they’re not just verbiage, each of the goals has to have concrete results attached.

To give a very crude example at the top-level  a small company might have an objective:

Objective: “Keep our customers happy”

Which in turn has the desired result

Key Results: “Get over 100 five-star reviews on amazon”

Then design team might say –  okay, to get those reviews on amazon, we really need to improve the quality of the product.

Objective: “Improve product quality”

Key result: “Hire 2 more people to ensure we have enough time to spend on design quality”

The marketing team might say – to get those 100 five-star reviews, we really need to come up with a reason with a great marketing campaign to make sure people by the product.  A key result for them might be a highly-clicked on marketing campaign

Objective: “Ensure the product has enough exposure to enable sales”

Result: “An advertisingcampaign with at least a 60% click-through rate”

Greg from marketing might say, okay, how do I contribute to this objective?

Objective: “Create a great advertising campaign”

Key result: Maximize targeted advertising revenue

Etc. etc….

OKRs are organized goal-setting in order to ensure alignment for the entire company. The system originates from Intel’s Andy Grove, and most of Silicon Valley are fans. Most notably Google is a great believer in the system – and the book has a whole appendix devoted to Google’s OKR system. Google also believes that at least one of your OKRs has to be moonshot – something you would love to achieve, but that pushes you almost to your limit. It’s okay to fail, the company says, although of course, no-one wants to fail. But forgetting to push yourself is unforgivable. So every employee in Google apparently has a set of OKRs pinned over their desk. At least that how Doerr presents it.

This is the basic premise of the book – the rest of it is an investigation of examples, some cases studies (of myfitness pal or the Gates foundation, for example) and a lot of self-admiration for how brilliantly this system works. Remember, John Doerr actually went and pitched the system to Google when he first invested in it. His job is basically convincing companies is that OKRs will help them work better.

That said, if you’re into this kind of thing – this is a fairly useful book.

And as someone who has struggled to come up with her OKRs – it helps to know what people are trying to get out of you and why…

P.S. What a surname to have when one sets out to write about increasing the productivity of companies! Does John Doerr do anything for you?

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