If you've been around software for long enough then you've undoubtedly run into Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) before. Measure What Matters by John Doerr is all about how to implement this widely-adopted approach to goal-setting. These are some quick notes and excerpts that I highlighted throughout:

Intro to OKRs

  • Begin with the question: What is most important for the next few months?
  • OKRs surface your primary goals in order to channel efforts and coordination.
  • Aim for specific, hard goals.
  • OKRs spell out your priorities for all to see. They make it easy to say no to requests that don't align.
  • Key results are the levers you pull, the marks you hit to achieve the objective, or high-level goal
  • Aim for 3-5 key results per objective. Too many will dilute focus.
  • Top-line objectives should be significant. OKRs aren't a wish list.
  • OKRs don't expire with completion of the work. Take time to wrap them up with post hoc analysis and reflection.
In other words: Key results are the levers you pull, the marks you hit to achieve the goal. If an objective is well framed, three to five KRs will usually be adequate to reach it. Too many can dilute focus and obscure progress. Besides, each key result should be a challenge in its own right.

Practical Advice

  • An effective goal-setting system starts with disciplined thinking among leaders.
  • Less is more. Decide which 3-5 objectives matter most per cycle then stick to them.
  • Encourage teams and individuals to create a significant portion of their own OKRs. When goals only come from the top, motivation declines.
  • Great CEOs say "This is what we're doing" then model doing it themselves.
  • For feedback to be effective, it needs to happen shortly after the period ends. The longer you wait, the less impactful it will be.
  • Consider measuring counter-effects in key results to safeguard quality among metrics.
  • Cascading objectives can make an operation more coherent, but too much of it removes creativity and hurts effectiveness.
  • When closing out an OKR cycle, ask the following questions: Did I accomplish all of my objectives? What contributed to my success? What obstacles did I encounter? If I were to rewrite an achieved goal, what would I change? What have I learned that might alter my approach next cycle?
“You’re not going to get the system just right the first time around. It’s not going to be perfect the second or third time, either. But don’t get discouraged. Persevere. You need to adapt it and make it your own.” Commitment feeds on itself.

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