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Measure What Matters by John Doerr

If there is one person you'd take advice on getting shit done from, it's someone with the name Doerr.

Are OKRs Relevant?

Are OKRs just a different wrapping for the same thing? What’s the difference with KPIs? Why is this a thing now that Google does it?

It’s finally all about strategy, goals and how to get there.

  • If OKRS fail it’s the company that did not perform, not the employee.
  • With KPIs that is less of a thing, a target not met is the employee's problem.

OKR cadence - quarterly, monthly or every six weeks

Six weeks is very quick.

  • But having to hustle to get things done in a short time is a positive thing.
  • Is a quarter too long? Bigger vs smaller company.
  • This can also help against irrelevancy.

The difficulties of working with OKRs

  • Do people feel like they might be bypassed?
  • For more junior team members who’re still learning, how can they come up with good personal objectives?
  • How do you pick 3-5 objectives, especially when people have different interests?
  • How do people feel when their responsibilities are not company's priority?
  • What are the difficulties about implementing certain priorities and not others?
  • Meeting objectives "at all costs" e.g. sales team achieve their targets but by doing so, customer support team gets the backlash from people who didn’t really want the product. CS might then end up not meeting their goals.
  • Communication between teams is very important.
  • Startups have tendency to switch objectives quicker than it takes to make a project successful. If something's not working, did we underestimate the time it'll take to succeed, or is it just not working and we should change the objective?
    • Not achieving objective vs objective being irrelevant

OR:

not achieving objective and therefore it's no longer relevant?

Stretch Goals

Do stretch goals cause burn out which prevents people from achieving them?

  • Employee satisfaction should be objective or health metric
  • Pairing quantity and quality in goals - going fast but then the quality isn’t great, keeps people from going overboard
  • After achieving one objective, there's another one to go for. Don't invest 100% of your energy on one.
  • Deepmind talked about stretch objectives - why would you not fully achieve something?
  • Stretch goals are more suitable for companies in fast growth stage.

Common theme amongst all the examples in the book:

Very big target -> getting it going -> thinking it won’t work -> finally they push through and then it works out anyway.

OKRs & Operations

Operations is usually all about keeping everything running smoothly. This means that the operations team can get overlooked in the creation of objectives. The team might feel left out, like they are not part of the exciting projects and can feel that they cannot partake or even take credit for positive outcomes.

However, operations team can be involved by being included in forming objectives and seeing where they can help out. Can they help hire the right people? Keep customers happy? Improve time consuming processes? There is always a way to contribute and be part of the company wide objectives.

Own experiences

Check in with your team every week and ask them to give a confidence rating whether or not they will reach the goal.

  • It’s interesting to question if a goal is still important or relevant? Why is it not working? Does your team member need help? Do you change your tactics? Do they need support from other teams?
  • This way you know why you might not meet the goal and it’s not a surprise at the end of the month if the objective was not right.
  • With these learnings you have a better idea on how to create your next goals and objectives. You can give recommendations moving forward.
  • The word “objectives” seems to freak people out but saying it’s something that is “due or die” seemed to help people come up with the ideas.
  • Employees not wanting to commit to time or figures because they say “how long is a piece of string”. Engineers might have a hard time to commit to something because they don’t know and don’t want to guess.
  • Bargaining up and down in time. Suggest a project might take a year and see what they say and go down and they will end up giving an estimate.

Now it's your turn - some questions

  • How do you implement what you have read in your company?
  • What if you don’t hit an objective? How do you know if it was a wrong objective or the team did not perform?
  • If you’re not reminding people - then people aren’t doing the OKR thing - does that then mean that they are not fully bought into it?
  • Personal development vs OKRs, is there space for it? Will it help motivate individuals? Is this something that needs to be mixed it? Or should it be different?
  • Are Ops related OKRs important?
  • Do you have personal OKRs to track your career, goals, side projects?

If you wish to share your answers or continue the discussion, please go over to Slack and post in #books.

Other Books Recommendations

Because Measure What Matters is full of insane examples and being a more realistic would be useful, the following book was mentioned. It also contains worksheet.

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results By Christina Wodtke An alternative method to OKRs The 4 Disciplines of Execution

by Chris McChesney - Sean Covey - Jim Huling The book club is run by Laura Parker, if you have any questions about or suggestions for upcoming events, don't hestitate to ping her a note on Slack or email.