Measure What Matters Summary Blog Feature

Measure What Matters Most Summary: Demystifying OKRs

Goals are to businesses what maps are to captains—they guide the journey toward meaningful achievements. And what better way to learn about goal-setting than from real-life success stories? 💸

The book Measure What Matters was written by an acclaimed investor with a stellar track record. As he gives us a glimpse into the secrets behind his success, we learn about objectives and key results (OKRs) and gain practical advice on management. 

These valuable insights are interwoven with examples from the author’s rich career, which includes collaborating with titans like Google and Intel.

If you’d like to get familiar with the concept of the OKR system and find out how it can revolutionize your strategic planning, check out our Measure What Matters Most summary. We’ve condensed key observations from this managerial masterpiece and included some tips to help you implement the wisdom into your workplace. 

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Measure What Matters Book Summary at a Glance

Measure What Matters book cover
Via: Amazon

Author: John Doerr

Number of pages: 320

Year of publication: 2017

Estimated reading time: 4 hours

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs is a must-read if you’re interested in strategic planning. Although packed with valuable knowledge, the book is a light read.

The book was written by John Doerr, an electrical engineer and renowned venture capitalist who played a major role in the success of world-famous companies such as Amazon, Google, and Intuit. 

The main concept the book explores is the OKR system—Objectives and Key Results, which provides a simple but powerful goal-setting strategy for aligning the company’s work with its ultimate mission. The book explains how successful processes require both:

  1. Objectives: They guide you from start to finish by asserting desired accomplishments
  2. Key results: They represent measurable outcomes, the actual numbers that signify the achievement of the goal 🧮

Doerr structured the book in a way that intertwines theory and practice. He provides detailed guidelines for the entire goal-setting and tracking process—from goal conception and prioritization to the final wrap-up and performance improvement. He also shares tips on maintaining a strong and healthy workplace culture. To get his points across, Doerr illustrates them with OKR examples from actual successful companies. 

At the beginning of the book, he gives us a rundown of how OKRs came to be—read the story below.

The history of OKRs

The concept of Objectives and Key Results was created by Andy Grove, a businessman and former CEO of Intel, where Doerr had worked early in his career. Doerr was a big proponent of Grove’s ideas, regarding him as the greatest manager of his or any era. In the book, Doerr shared that Grove’s system was his pillar of strength throughout his professional development.

While Grove conceived OKRs, Doerr created the abbreviation and further popularized the concept, bringing it to Google in 1999.

Grove based his system on Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives (MBO). This model was cutting-edge at the time, introducing the idea that management should be trust-based and result-oriented. Before that, the traditional hierarchical management structure piloted by Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor ruled the scene. Although revolutionary, the MBO theory had its shortcomings, which OKR attempted to overcome.

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Key Takeaways from Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Over the years, Doerr has accumulated immense knowledge about management and transformed numerous start-ups into enterprises using the OKR approach. 💼

The following sections highlight some of the most noteworthy concepts he discusses in Measure What Matters. Let’s dig in!

1. Dr. Grove’s basic OKR hygiene

Doerr explains that honesty, selflessness, and commitment to the team and its mission are at the heart of Grove’s OKR philosophy. Still, Grove’s systematic engineering approach is what ultimately drove success to Intel and other companies he’s managed. 

These are the seven greatest lessons Doerr has learned from Grove, and they constitute the basis of the entire book:

  1. Less is more: Carefully choosing your objectives is crucial—no more than five at once
  2. Set company goals from the bottom up: Motivation is usually low when all team goals come from the top. About half of them should come from the business’s frontline, i.e., the employees 
  3. No dictating: OKRs should be a collaborative effort, and collective agreement is a must to ensure goal fruition
  4. Stay flexible: In light of changes, you should discard your own objectives that are no longer relevant
  5. Dare to fail: You achieve tremendous success when risk taking and pushing yourself
  6. A tool, not a weapon: Don’t use OKRs to judge someone’s work performance or determine their earnings 
  7. Be patient: Real change takes time and a lot of trial and error. Companies need around four to five quarterly OKR cycles to adapt to the new system and even more to excel at it 

2. OKR superpower #1: Focus and commit to priorities

The first step to goal-setting is to ask yourself what your key ambitions are in the upcoming three, six, or twelve months. Focus only on urgent goals that are bound to make a real difference within your company. 

After determining the Whats, it’s time to move on to the Hows—your key results. These are the measurements that will imply the achievement of your own objectives. According to Doerr, you should have no more than five key results (KRs) per objective. He recommends combining quantitative and qualitative KR measurements to ensure comprehensive evaluation and improvement.

It’s also crucial to clarify the Whys and be transparent with the employees. They will be more motivated if they know: 

  • What they’re doing the work for
  • How these efforts contribute to their personal and the company’s growth

The only thing left is to determine the Whens. Doerr recommends no more than five committed objectives per cycle. Considering your organization’s needs and ability, you should also determine the cadence. Most companies track KRs annually or quarterly or use a hybrid model. 📆

ClickUp Calendar View
Use ClickUp’s Calendar View to determine the “when” of your objectives

3. OKR superpower #2: Align and connect for teamwork

OKRs should be transparent. By making them visible to all, you’ll ensure everyone’s on the same page and avoid redundant work. It’s also essential to be open to critique—everyone should be able to give and receive objective feedback for the sake of the greater good.

The OKR approach can be especially beneficial for multi-location and remote companies. It unites teams and fosters collaboration. 🤝

This section of the book also discusses the ineffectiveness of the traditional cascade management model. In this top-down model, the senior management sets the goals and passes them on to the lower levels in the hierarchy, whose work is determined exclusively by the executives. This model is problematic for several notable reasons:

  • It’s time-consuming: It takes ages for decisions to move down the hierarchy, even if the company isn’t big
  • It’s inflexible: It makes it nearly impossible to revise committed goals once the work is underway
  • It undermines the contribution of frontline employees: These employees often have a more direct link to the product and customers than higher-ups
  • It prevents horizontal, cross-functional collaboration: It doesn’t allow different team’s strengths to combine and create something exceptional

In some urgent situations, the top-down model may be necessary, but in general, employees should contribute to about half of the committed OKRs, guided by their manager. 

ClickUp Chat View
With ClickUp’s Chat View, you can communicate your OKRs to employees and ask for their input

4. OKR superpower #3: Track for accountability

An OKR cycle has three phases—the initial setup, the systematic midlife tracking, and the final wrap-up

During the setup phase, Doerr recommends using OKR management software for convenience. This type of tool allows you to create, edit, measure, and score aspirational OKRs. It can make information readily available, drive employee engagement, and help individuals with similar interests connect. It’s also time and cost-efficient, cutting out the need for unnecessary status meetings and documentation.

In the midlife tracking stage, the author discusses how progress motivates employees. According to him, percentages are the most compelling way to visualize it. Ideally, you should conduct meetings throughout the quarter to analyze your OKRs and detect any bottlenecks. Sharing the committed goals with others in the company can also increase motivation.

Wrap-up entails close examination after completing your OKR work. You should use objective scoring, self-assessment, and reflection to gain valuable lessons for future OKRs. In case you didn’t fulfill your objective, try again in the next quarter with a new key results benchmark or reassess the need for it.

ClickUp Docs
Jot down and organize all the lessons you’ve learned from your past OKRs with ClickUp Docs

5. OKR superpower #4: Stretch for amazing

OKRs motivate us to test limits and stretch beyond our comfort zones. According to the book, companies should set two types of objectives:

  1. Committed: The goals you must achieve within a specific time frame to keep the company running, such as hiring and feature releases
  2. Aspirational: Also known as stretch goals, these objectives are risky and challenging but have the potential to propel the company forward through innovation

In the same light, author Steven Levy coined the phrase the gospel of 10x to describe bold goals that set apart exceptional companies from the rest. One such company is Google, which managed to provide 100 MB of email storage when its competitors offered only 2–4 MB. 📧

6. Continuous performance management: OKRs and CFRs

Although widespread, annual performance reviews by themselves are ineffective. Instead of pure ratings, you should focus on the process, the strengths, and coaching

The optimal approach is the continuous performance management system, implemented through CFR, which stands for:

  1. Conversations: You should conduct regular one-on-one meetings and allow the employee to lead the discussion. The aim of these meetings should be mutual performance improvement, and they should evaluate progress and cover topics such as employees’ OKRs, areas for improvement, professional goals, and achievements
  2. Feedback: All employees should give and receive feedback. That way, you can bring problems to light, resolve them quickly, and move forward collectively
  3. Recognition: Acknowledging excellent work can be a great encouragement to keep it up. You should praise employees often, inspire peers to praise each other, and be specific about what you’re praising

Aspirational OKRs facilitate the continuous performance management system by showing us exactly what to converse about and celebrate.

7. Fostering healthy values

The organization’s culture can determine its efficiency and success. When a company fosters healthy values, getting everyone on board with the goals and making decisions is easier. Such a culture also empowers independent work that needs minimal supervision. 

To make this happen, the entire organization needs to have defined and common goals facilitated by higher-ups who lead by example. OKRs can also help provide coherence and harmony, uniting all operations.

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Impactful Measure What Matters Quotes

Let the following Measure What Matters quotes guide you in your OKR journey:

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.

While goals are important, they will lose their meaning if you don’t act upon them. Setting a goal is only the first step. You need to follow it up with hard and meticulous work to achieve tangible success.

‘Bad companies’, Andy wrote, ‘are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.’

Let’s try to illustrate this notion. We’ll use chefs as an example. In case of ingredient shortage, a bad chef will give up, a good one will manage to produce an edible dish, whereas a great chef will use this as an opportunity to create something extraordinary and stand out. 🧑‍🍳

Stretch goals can be crushing if people don’t believe they’re achievable.

Goals should be challenging and push the boundaries of possibility—but not impossible. More importantly, you should frame stretch goals in a way that makes them seem feasible and sparks motivation. Otherwise, they’ll be counter-productive—the pressure will be too high and lead to anxiety. Set priorities carefully and have the courage to discard some of them.

Meritocracy flourishes in sunlight.

Meritocracy is the system in which success and rewards are distributed based on achievements and efforts. This type of system can work for companies only if it’s transparent. Everyone should be on board for the goal-setting and tracking OKR process and allowed to critique it.

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Apply Measure What Matters Learnings with ClickUp

ClickUp Home View
Use ClickUp to apply the OKR approach and set your company or team up for success

If we think of the OKR system as a blueprint for a building, a project management tool such as ClickUp would be the construction site. The blueprint guides the construction work, whereas the site provides the tools and space needed to complete it successfully. Together, they help bring the architect’s vision to life. 🏛️

ClickUp is an intuitive productivity platform packed with features to streamline your planning, progress tracking, team collaboration, and other key business operations. 

Beginnings are always the hardest, so ClickUp has prepared over 1,000 templates for your convenience, including goal-setting and OKR templates.

In the following sections, you’ll learn how to use ClickUp to implement Doerr’s OKR system within your organization:

Step 1: Focus and commit to priorities

ClickUp Goals
Use ClickUp Goals to define your objectives and key results, i.e., measurable targets

Think about the ambitious goal set you want to achieve most in the next period and jot them down with ClickUp Goals. As they accumulate over time, you can organize them in folders based on cycles, or however you see fit.

Doerr’s recommendation is to track sales and revenue goals quarterly or annually, but feel free to do so more frequently and set monthly or weekly goals if that works better for your team or company. 🥅

The next step is to determine the key results, which you can do using targets within ClickUp. The platform measures targets automatically based on the criteria you choose:

  1. Numerical
  2. Monetary
  3. True/false

You can also add descriptions to ensure your employees understand the reasoning behind the OKRs. If you need to go into details, consider using ClickUp Docs, a rich text editor with AI capabilities.

To concretize your plans, use ClickUp Tasks. You can:

  • Set the dates
  • Assign them to individuals
  • Appoint priority labels and tags
  • Break them down into smaller bits with subtasks and checklists
  • Introduce task dependencies to foster horizontal, cross-functional collaboration

To review and edit tasks, use one of many views, such as the ClickUp Board view or the classic List view. Once you’re ready, link the tasks to their respective goals. 

Step 2: Align and connect for teamwork

ClickUp Whiteboards
Use ClickUp Whiteboards and many other communication channels to brainstorm and connect with coworkers

According to Measure What Matters, it’s essential to include employees when creating or revising goals. There are many ways you can do this within ClickUp:

  • Request and provide feedback by tagging individuals in tasks or comments
  • Use ClickUp’s Chat view to have more in-depth and personal discussions
  • Create forms within Form View and gather input in a more standardized way
  • Throw some ideas around and create visual maps using ClickUp Whiteboards

Like the OKR system, ClickUp can be highly beneficial for remote teams. It makes all your plans and work visible, syncs changes, and notifies contributors about them, making sure everyone is up-to-date at all times. 

Step 3: Track for accountability

ClickUp Dashboards
With ClickUp’s automatic progress tracking and Dashboards, you can assess your performance at a glance

As you and your team complete the work you set out to do with OKRs, you can mark your progress within ClickUp. The platform will calculate all the target scores for you, expressing them in percentages as per Doerr’s liking. You can see them all at a glance in the progress roll-up view.

For a higher-level overview of your team’s or company’s real time performance, turn to ClickUp Dashboards. You have over 50 different cards at your disposal to build the ideal custom dashboard.

To assess and mark individual progress, use Custom Fields in your favorite task management template. You can also provide your thoughts in several unique ways: 

  • In the task comments
  • As annotations
  • In the Chat view

Don’t forget to acknowledge the most notable contributors and highlight their achievements for everyone to see! 🏅

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Harness the Power of OKRs with ClickUp

No matter how big your company’s or team’s goals are, the OKR system can make them manageable. With mindful planning, harmonious cooperation, and proper measurement techniques, success will be right around the corner. 

ClickUp can help you get there faster by giving you the tools to plan, execute, and measure more efficiently.

Sign up for ClickUp and join over 800,000 teams productively navigating the path to prosperity! 🏃

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