Great ideas are useless if you can’t execute them. Objectives and key results (OKRs) help to create clarity, focus, accountability, alignment and momentum to deliver real results. In this book summary of Measure What Matters by John Doerr, we’ll outline how OKRs deliver results and the ingredients needed for successful OKR application. For the full details and examples, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview with our complete book summary bundle.
Measuring What Matters: What are OKRs?
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. They provide a structured way for teams and individuals to set and achieve their goals. In a nutshell:
• An objective is what you’re trying to achieve. A sound objective should be meaningful and inspiring. It typically involves a timeframe of at least 1 year.
• Key results (KRs) are how you’ll achieve the objective. They provide a yardstick to measure and track your progress. Good KRs are specific, measurable, challenging and time-bound. They help you to know within each month or quarter if you’re ontrack toward your objective. If your OKRs are well-defined, you’d have achieved your objective when you’ve achieved all your KRs.
OKRs can be applied in any organization from startups to non-profit organizations and established corporations. However, since there are no fixed steps or rules for OKRs, this is not a how-to book. Doerr uses various examples and interviews with leaders to explain the value and potential of OKRs so you can use that as a starting point to tailor OKRs for your organization.
How OKRs Translate Ideas to Sound Execution
Here’s a quick overview of the 4 key success factors that allow OKRs to translate ideas into results. For specific tips and examples for each of these components, do get a copy of our full 12-page summary for more details or get the full mojo from the Measure What Matters book.
1. Focus and Commitment to Core Priorities
OKRs force leaders to decide on and commit to what matters most. If you want to fill a jar with rocks, pebbles and sand, the best way is to start with the rocks, followed by the pebbles and sand, so the latter can fill in the empty spaces between the rocks. If you start with the sand and pebbles, you’ll have no space left for the rocks. Likewise, to maximize results, you must focus on your top priorities first. In the book / full summary we’ll take a closer look at leaders’ responsibilities, and what to look out for when setting your OKRs in yearly and quarterly cycles.
2. Alignment and Connection for Teamwork
Alignment means that everyone’s efforts are directed toward the same vision and objectives. By making everyone’s goals transparent—from the CEO to the front-line staff—OKRs help people to understand their inter-dependencies and see how their work serves a wider purpose, to promote teamwork, work satisfaction and alignment. In the book / our complete 12-page summary, we share specific examples of how OKRs are cascaded and connected in an organization and what to look out for.
3. Tracking for Accountability
OKRs are dynamic tools, not static numbers. By tracking and reviewing OKRs regularly, people know exactly where they stand, what areas must be addressed, and are held accountable for results. In the book / our complete summary, we explain the 3 phases for OKR-tracking and tips for each phase.
4. Stretching for Breakthroughs
Innovation is essential for organizational success. This in turn requires that people stretch beyond existing limits and solutions. OKRs deliver all the factors above—focus and commitment, transparency and alignment, tracking and adjustment—so people can stretch to deliver breakthrough innovations. We share more perspectives and examples on setting stretch goals in our full book summary.
OKRs are powerful, but they’re not a magic bullet. To deliver results, OKRs must work hand-in-hand with great leadership and a strong culture. In our complete 12-page summary we’ll explain more about the symbiotic relationship between OKRs and (i) continuous performance management (using “CFRs” or conversations, feedback and recognition) as well as (ii) organizational culture.
Other Details in “Measure What Matters”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for OKRs. It’s up to the leaders of an organization to figure out the right goals and approach for their teams. Besides the highlights in our summary, the book includes many other examples and interviews with leaders to give you a range of perspectives on the potential challenges and results from OKRs. Do get a copy of the book for the full details, get our Measure What Matters summary bundle for an overview of the various ideas and tips, or check out more resources/details at whatmatters.com.
Find out how to measure what matters and use OKRs to deliver great results!