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The PeopleCap Playbook

Timely insights and actionable people strategies for leaders.

What We’re Reading: Measure What Matters

book cover Measure What Matters

One of PeopleCap’s 6 Imperatives for High Performance  is “Sharpen Focus.” We are always looking for creative ways to help our client companies set clear direction and align their organization accordingly. It was with that in mind that I picked up a copy of Measure What Matters by John Doerr to read at the beach this summer. It inspired me to sharpen my own focus and put into practice the organizational goal setting methodology detailed in the book that promises to “turn good ideas into superior execution.”

John Doerr is a billionaire and legendary venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Silicon Valley. His storied career began at Intel in 1970’s working under his mentor, Intel’s venerable CEO, Andy Grove. It was there that he was exposed to the Objectives & Key Results  (OKRs) formula that he has been evangelizing ever since. He has made disciples of organizations including Google, Intuit, Bono’s One Foundation and The Gates Foundation.

So why is Doerr so passionate about goal setting? According to a Deloitte report in 2015, no single factor has more impact on employee engagement than “clearly defined goals that are written down and shared freely.” Higher engagement equals higher productivity, and that translates to a stronger bottom line. What investor wouldn’t like that?

According to the book, using OKRs effectively can improve organizational focus, alignment, accountability, and aspirations.

Doerr lays out the “4 Super Powers” of OKRs:

  • Focus & Commit to Priorities

Those who use OKRs successfully report spending a lot of time on the front end making sure they are setting the right goals and clearly defining how success will be measured. The goal setting process in and of itself helps to achieve buy-in on the front end.

  • Align & Connect for Teamwork

OKRs are meant to be transparent and widely shared across the organization. Transparency encourages collaboration and helps eliminate duplication of effort or teams working at cross purposes.

  • Stretch for Amazing

Doerr encourages leaders to set stretch goals or “80% goals” as we called them when I was at Google. Generally, the goal is a good one if it has an 80% chance of success meaning it is neither impossible nor a slam dunk.

  • Track for Accountability

The OKR process comes with a grading system to be used to track progress at regular intervals (quarterly, annually) to determine progress and sharing the grades publicly. At Google, OKRs are set and measured quarterly. At the company level, the OKR’s grade is announced publicly at a quarterly town hall meeting.

So how does it work?

First, set your objectives. The Objective describes what you are going to achieve. The objective must be “tangible, objective, and unambiguous. It should be obvious to a rational observer whether an objective has been achieved.”

Objective: Run a Half Marathon by 12/31/2018

Then for each Objective, set supporting Key Results that “express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will advance the objective.” Key Results “must include evidence of completion. This evidence must be available, credible, and easily discoverable.”

Key Results:

  • Run 3 times per week
  • Work on core strength at Gym 2x per week
  • Run 3 5ks by October 1, 2018
  • Run 2 10Ks by November 1, 2018

And voila! You are off to the races!

If your team could use some help in sharpening your focus this fall for 2019 and beyond, let PeopleCap guide you through setting and executing the right OKRs.