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Measuring What Matters by John Doerr • how to set goals • KPI management • strategic thinking

Measuring What Matters by John Doerr - how to set goals

Measure What Matters, written by John Doerr, a successful investor and a venture capitalist, provides us with strategic thinking on how to how to set goals effectively and measure what really matters. 

I think, the best recommendation I could put here are words of Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, who once said that he wished he had this book 20 years ago when they founded Google.

The book focuses on OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) a goal system used by Google, Intel, Oracle, LinkedIn, Sears and many other companies to create alignment, engagement and clarity around measurable goals. It is a collaborative goal-setting protocol for individuals, teams and companies.

First, the book determines four “superpowers” to focus on as the outcome of OKRs. They are:

  • Focus - High-performance organisations should aim at what’s important to dispell confusion and be aware of what doesn’t work for their business. As a leader, you have to make hard choices on that. Moreover, you have to be a precise communicator on each level, department, team and individual.
  • Align - With right OKR transparency, everyone’s goals, from the CEO to first-line employees, are openly shared. In such an arrangement each individual can link their objectives to the company’s business plan, identify cross-dependencies and synchronise themselves with other teams. By connecting each employee to the organisation’s success, top-down alignment brings sense to work. By deepening contributor’s sense of ownership, bottom-up OKRs boost engagement and innovation.
  • Track – possibility to be driven by proper data. It means that OKR’s should be aligned by periodic check-ins, objective classifying, and continuous revision — all in a spirit of no-judgment accountability. Key results in danger should trigger proper actions to get them back on track or to modify or alter them if warranted.
  • Stretch – right OKRs motivate employees to excel by achieving more than they originally aimed at. By stretching their limits and giving the freedom to fail, people release their creativity, ambitions.

Next, John Doerr explains how to implement the OKR system to maximise its benefits so in six steps you should:

  • List approximately 3 objectives on each level
  • Define 3 to 4 key results to be achieved for each objective
  • Communicate key results and objectives to everyone
  • Regularly track your results using a 0-100% scale
  • When objective’s result reaches 70-80%, consider it done
  • Review OKRs regularly and set new ones

Then, the book talks a lot about what most of us know, that goals should be SMART. It uses interesting examples which put extra light on how to set goals and make it even more applicable in a different context. If you don’t remember what SMART means, here you have a clue:

S – Specific to know the goal
M – Measurable to track results
A – Achievable to aim what’s possible
R – Relevant to improve a business in some way
T – Time-bound to be specific on a timeframe

The book also calls for changing organizational structure and HR based on continuous improvement through OKRs. The new system should be built on fast feedback cycles between a manager and a report based on OKRs that empowers employees to hit their top priorities. The book also argues that processes like annual performance reviews become outdated. 

Jim Collins said that this book “deserves to be fully embraced by every person responsible for performance in any walk of life”. There is not much to add. I highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position, who wants to know how to set goals to raise his performance and lead his team more effectively. The book might work well in huge organisations struggling with goals setting process, as well as, to small start-ups. I’d even risk stating that these small organisations would benefit much more as the book provides a framework for building a culture around goals.

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
by John Doerr

Final rating:

Interesting story
Complexity of ideas
Flourish language

Book details:

Size: 320 pages
Published: 2018


Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads:

Other useful links:
John Doerr on Wikipedia:
Doerr’s website about the book:
Other great books about setting goals: The New One Minute Manager,  The Spirit of Kaizen by Robert Maurer

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