Code Yarns ‍👨‍💻
Tech BlogPersonal Blog

Measure What Matters

📅 2020-Jan-08 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ book ⬩ 📚 Archive

I picked up Measure What Matters to learn more about OKRs, which are used at my work. The book is written by famous venture capitalist John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins, who learnt about OKRs while working at Intel and then took it to the companies his VC firm invested in, like Google.

OKR is a management tool for collaborative goal-setting. It is typically done once a quarter. At every level in the organization, you set OKRs and that propagates down: company OKRs to division OKRs to team OKRs and so on.

The objective states a goal to be achieved. The 3-5 key results associated with an objective use quantitative metrics to state how that objective will be achieved. So in essence, objective is the what and its key results are the how. OKRs can be either committed or aspirational. Committed OKRs are for goals that have to be achieved. Aspirational OKRs are for stretch goals. You could score both the key results and the objectives with a 0.0-1.0 score.

OKRs were made popular at Intel by Andy Grove, during the three decades of the Intel trinity (Moore, Noyce and Grove). At Intel, they were called as measured by, as in: “achieving O as measured by these KRs”.

The book is supposed to be about OKRs, but late into the book, Doerr tacks on continuous performance management, another Intel management principle. It consists of having 1-on-1 dialogues regularly between managers and their reports, measuring progress against individual OKRs and personal development discussion.

OKRs could be summarized in a few pages, but which publisher would publish a 10-page booklet or would you buy it? Nope. So, it has to be a 300-page tome where the same thing is repeated in 50 different ways. Doerr gets all the startups and corporations he invested in and the celebrities he knows to write a chapter each about how OKRs helped their organization. We hear from CEOs, founders and celebrities, there is not a single sentence in the whole book from a manager or an employee who is lower down in the hierarchy about how OKRs worked out for them.

Some of the examples are severely dated and would be frowned upon today. As an example, the Intel sales team is set an aspirational OKR with the carrot of a Tahiti trip for the team. If a sales team did not meet quota it would not go on the trip. So the sales people worked their ass off, to well, go hang out with the same sales people. No comments.

In summary, this book is way too long for the content it is delivering. The author even tosses in a full chapter dedicated to his personal life coach! And for describing a tool that he did not invent, the author is not at all modest throughout the book, if you get my drift.

OKRs and 1-on-1 dialogues are useful tools and they are used at many successful companies like Google and Intel. So there is definitely value in learning about them. My suggestion is to pick up this book and turn directly to the end to the chapter Google’s OKR Playbook. (This chapter seems to be available online too). Those 10 pages take 10 minutes to read and are enough to learn about OKRs and to put them directly into action. You can thank me later.

PS: The book cover has some measurements of the title text and those are just wrong! What happened with the cover design here?

Rating: 3/4

© 2022 Ashwin Nanjappa • All writing under CC BY-SA license • 🐘📧