Book Review: Measure What Matters by John Doerr

This week’s book was a really inspiring read, it seemed to make a really difficult topic – how to measure your business activities – seem so simple. If it were quite that simple we probably wouldn’t need a book though, right?

If you’ve heard about OKRs, you probably know about them because Google uses them. John Doerr introduced OKRs (Objective, and Key Results) to Google. He learned about them at Intel. And as a way of keeping an organisation focused on what matters, they seek like a great tool. What I really appreciated about this book, though, is that they shared stories from a range of companies (ranging from Intel to Zoom Pizza), as well as other organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and perhaps slightly controversially Bono’s ONE Campaign, and DATA (an organisation focused on dealing with AIDS, also founded by Bono). Showing that OKRs aren’t just a Google thing, and have been successful for many companies, aids the credibility of Doerr’s message. Also, having a wide range of examples to read about, and devoting most of the book to these case studies, helps get one’s head around how to do OKRs in one’s own organisation.

Some key takeaways for me were:

  • “You have to stretch your goal muscle” – I’m probably not going to get it right the first few times, but I should keep working at setting goals for myself and my organisation.
  • OKRs will only work if you are focused enough to stick to what matters – having 100 OKRs will not help you, having 5 will.
  • Some OKRs should be committed, ie you must achieve 100%, and others should be aspirational (at Google, 70% is considered success for these). Judging what should be which seems tricky.

One thing the book could do better on is to describe the processes by which organisations come up with their OKRs. The author alluded to the way that Google, for example, sets out their OKRs at the start of each calendar year, but I would have appreciated more detail on this strategic process.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and feel quite positive about being able to make use of OKRs in the future.

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