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OKR: Measure What Matters Book Review

by salihkus
OKR: Measure What Matters

Today, I will tell you about the book “Measure What Matters” written by John Doerr. This book serves as a guide and history of the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) methodology. We will explore what OKR is, how to get started, and how to implement it, while discovering the fundamental driving force that has brought Google to where it is today.

What is OKR?

Objectives and Key Results, commonly known as OKR, is a management methodology. The book explains what OKR is, where to start, and how to apply it.

It has been a little over a year since I finished reading the book, and since then, OKR has become a part of my life. In short, I can describe it as the “art of lean focus.” However, we will delve into the subject with more detail.

A Metaphor for OKR

Imagine you have just started working on a coal-powered ship. Your duty station is the engine room, and your first task is to shovel coal into the furnace. You have a clear understanding of the ship’s structure and how the machinery operates, so you know exactly how the coal you shovel affects the ship.

The coal burns, steam is produced, propulsion is obtained, and the ship moves forward. The destination port and the time spent there are very clear to you. Even though you may be the least experienced crew member, it is easy for you to see the effects of your work, the benefits when done correctly, and the problems that arise when things go wrong.

You can liken your company to this ship in order to understand OKR. Shoveling coal to obtain the necessary power for the ship’s progress represents the essential operations that keep your company running. The person shoveling the coal is the least experienced individual who just started at your company.

The clarity, transparency, and precision existing on the ship represent everything that the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system aims to create.

Today Companies Clear About What Matters?

Unfortunately, many employees in medium and large-scale companies do not have a clear understanding of their company’s goals. This lack of clarity is often associated with companies focusing only on daily tasks and neglecting the bigger picture. One of the main reasons is that even the organization itself is not aware of these goals. In general, they focus on just staying afloat and disregard everything else.

Measure What Matters Book Cover
Measure What Matters Book Cover

Let the ship move forward!

But to where?

It doesn’t matter, let’s just move forward!

“A captain who doesn’t know where he is going will never be helped by any wind.”

The OKR system aims to eliminate this uncertainty within companies. It aims to align everyone, from top management to the lowest-level employees, to move toward the same goal.

An Objective is simply what the company, and consequently individuals, want to achieve—neither less nor more.

Key Results, on the other hand, allow tracking and comparison of how the goal is being achieved. Effective Key Results are clearly defined, time-bound, aggressive yet realistic, and most importantly, measurable and verifiable.

What Does the Book Cover About OKR?

Doerr narrates the growth journey of Intel and, with greater emphasis, Google in the book. He describes their encounter with OKR, how they implemented it, and how they shaped their organizational culture along the way. The narrative is presented chronologically and, most importantly, transparently.

To deepen his narratives, Doerr provides examples from a wide range of companies, not solely technology-focused ones, such as a pizza company with a different core purpose. This way, he attempts to break the perception that OKR is only applicable to technology companies.

I can confidently say that he succeeds in breaking that perception. However, I will address this later.

The book provides comprehensive guidance by covering even the finest details of OKR. By reading the book and following all the instructions, you can easily implement the OKR system in your organization. Even if you already have a KPI tracking system or a strategic management approach. The OKR system likely complements the existing systems you have. The book thoroughly addresses these topics.

Getting Started with OKR

When starting with OKR, the first thing you should do after finishing this article is to get a copy of the book “Measure What Matters” and read it. If you take sufficient notes while reading, you can comfortably start the transformation process.

However, I recommend not doing it alone but rather gifting the book to a few people who can support you in the transformation. As great as the system may be, any transformation can initially become a taboo that people resist.

Furthermore, you can also read other articles about OKR on this blog. I am confident that they will be highly beneficial to you.

In Summary, “Measure What Matters” Book

In short, this book has the potential to ignite a truly remarkable transformation. Not only in my professional life but also in my personal life, I have been using individual OKRs for over a year. I have a dedicated page for OKR on my Notion workspace, and I see my current OKRs on my main page every day.

I have divided my life into quarters and determine my focus accordingly. I have not yet achieved a success rate of over 60%. According to Doerr, this is the strongest indication that I have set challenging OKRs, and yes, I said it’s good.

Because achieving 100% would mean underestimating myself. Doerr emphasizes this clearly in multiple parts of the book. Let’s end this article with one of those emphases:

If a department achieves 100% of its goals, it is assumed that they have set the bar too low, and in this case, there will be a lot to answer for.