In Measure What Matters: OKRs – The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth, John Doerr explains why measuring what matters helps you to plan, track and achieve success.
It makes intuitive sense anyway: if you are not measuring your progress, how would you know that you are really hitting your goals?
In a sea of activities that are interlinked it is often hard to pay attention to what we need to prioritise when everything needs doing.
Without specific objectives and key result indicators, we simply don’t know where we are going or whether we are ticking off the right activities.
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results that can be set for any timeline but often work best across annual and quarterly tracking system that helps you to keep track of activities and steps that should be taken (or not taken).
OKRs are made at the whole of organisation level, at department level, at team level, and at individual level and they should all feed into the bigger picture of the main mission.
How to keep track on what you do
At Google, the whole company runs on OKRs, which are broader than imaginable but also transparent.
This means anyone at Google can go and look at high level objectives and key results, what these look like across teams and even individuals.
By seeing progress in real-time, individuals can see how their work can make a difference and where they can be most helpful.
The measuring system uses three colours: red, yellow and green.
Scoring between 0.7- 1.0, gets you to green that means that you nailed what you set out to achieve.
Scoring 0.4- 0.6 gets you to yellow where you show progress but fall short of your targets.
Scoring 0.0-0.3 gets you to red where you have failed to reach your key results.
If this sounds very simple, it is because it gives you transparency in real-time to see how you are actually faring vs. how you think you might be doing.
But these metrics are not always clear cut: sometimes you reach 100% but you don’t get the value output that you thought you would.
It is important that your key results reflect the best value adding activities rather than numbers that are easy to come up with.
For example, making 100 sale calls your key result and then making those calls might not result in more clients, which means that if you are after more clients, the number of new clients should be your key result.
Also, if your key result is too easy to achieve, it will not add true value.
Objectives and Key Results must be set in a way that actually push you forward and help you to accelerate 10 times after (10x) than what you would normally do.
And often less is more: submitting five journal manuscripts is a key result but submitting three manuscripts that change the way people think or do something in your field is more impactful.
The Fantastic Four
OKRs rely on the fantastic four: Focus, Alignment, Tracking and Stretching.
Focus and Commit to Priorities. This means making clear which objectives you are going after, why and demonstrate then commitment. This starts with senior leadership because if people see you are not really committed, it is extremely likely others won’t be either. By outlining key priorities you provide focus and choose between 3-5 objectives that are really going to make the difference to drive extraordinary thinking and work.
Alignment and Connect for Teamwork. Teams should be aligned and connected across the organisation. This is why transparency of objectives and key results is integral across the whole organisation so that teams know what other teams and departments are doing, when and why. This enables increased alignment of activities but also exposes core interdependencies that can impact but also benefit scheduling of activities.
Tracking for Accountability. OKRs provide actual activities that either fail, are almost reached, and are fulfilled. The system leaves no one in the dark as to whether the key results have been fulfilled, which areas need much more work, and at times which key results are no longer serving the objective. Companies now opt to have virtual platforms where all OKRs are recorded and anyone can see in real time how different departments, teams, and leaders are faring. Gates Foundation for example uses OKRs to track how they are faring with eradication of malaria and the other grand challenges.
Stretching for Amazing. Stretch goals are goals that literally stretch you: they inspire you to reach higher than what you’d normally expect from yourself. Stretch goals literally “lead us to achievements on the border between abilities and dreams” (p. 133). These are the aspirational goals that really push you out of your comfort zone because they demand you to think and be 10x more amazing. But these goals also drive innovation and the big picture thinking that is needed to inspire.
The key here is to separate also different things that you need to do: establishing your mission/vision is different from your objectives, which are different from key results.
Think of this as a hierarchy: your mission is your overall ambition that your objectives break down, and your key results are very specific to those objectives and help you to identify key measurable activities to fulfil your objectives.
But none of these are set in stone: at some point, your objectives might not be relevant or something happens that makes your objective obsolete or needs deferral.
Yet, by having a tracking system in place you can keep up with changes and pivot when needed.
Measuring mindset for climate adaptation
Many of these same ideas are highly applicable also to climate change adaptation.
We need to measure what matters and our objectives and key results must be aligned to the best possible impact, not the easiest numbers to reach.
If our objective is to increase the resilience and well-being of the most vulnerable communities, what do our key results then look like?
If our objective is to prevent harm from extreme events and slow onset processes that change the environment where people live, what do our key results look like?
By understanding what matters helps us to identify what should be measured.
It will also help us to see what is noise in the sea of activities and which steps and measures actually can push us beyond amazing.