The long immersion in the sea of Objectives and Key Results is coming to an end. Together we have brought hidden chests full of knowledge to the surface. I hope you can treasure it. Before closing, however, I cannot fail to mention the reference bibliography on the OKRs topic. Starting with the book that gives the title to this article: “OKR Revolution”. I will also show you other useful books for further information. They are the ones I trained on and liked the most. Let’s go!
If you haven’t done so yet, as an introductory reading I recommend my OKR Jedi Guide.
OKR Revolution: The Method of Goals and Key Outcomes Explained by Doerr
The first book I tell you about is “OKR Revolution: Discover the Method of Goals and Key Results to Measure What Really Matters”. The author John Doerr starts from 3 excellent case studies, Intel, Google, and Amazon, to demonstrate how the OKR method can be of support to any type of organization, at any level of evolution.
The most emblematic case concerns the introduction of OKRs in Google. A surprising story that I will summarize briefly.
The history of Google OKRs
Fall 1999, Palo Alto. John Doerr visits the headquarters of a startup on which he made his largest investment as a ‘venture capitalist’. Nearly $12 million to secure 12% of a new company founded by a dropout couple (as he called them himself): two young men who dropped out of Stanford before graduation. The two in question answered the names of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, brazenly sure of the success of their idea.
Yet Doerr immediately identifies which threats are coming from the market and beyond. Google is just the 18th search engine to land on the Web: it is not the first and it does not even place itself on the podium. Such an obvious disadvantage compared to competitors can be fatal, especially in the technological field.
And then perhaps the most evident lack. Despite having good cards in hand, the PageRank of the Google algorithm outclassed the competition even in the Beta version, there was no plan. There was no database on which to monitor progress and measure what was important for achieving the objectives.
So it was that Doerr gave Google the OKR method: a proven tool for strategy execution.
How does the story end? The methodology for objectives and key outcomes has worked remarkably well for the Mountain View giant. Google and other related digital products generate super revenue today.
Find out details regarding Google’s revenue.
Who is John Doerr and when are OKRs born?
John Doerr is a US engineer, entrepreneur, and investor. In February 2009, he was named a board member of President Obama as a consultant on the US economic recession.
He is included by Forbes at 51st place on the list of US billionaires in 2021 (303rd richest person in the world). With a net worth of $ 12.7 billion, he is also the only investor to appear on Forbes’ “The Midas List” of the best ‘Venture Capital’ financial investors every year for two decades.
Not at all obvious for a boy who at 24 was looking for a job in Silicon Valley! Doerr’s luck begins in Intel where Andy Grove becomes his teacher and initiates him into the various MBO (Management by Objectives) methodologies. Since the seventies, Doerr has embraced the OKR philosophy and disseminated it to over 50 companies. The brand of success accompanies the OKR from the beginning and allows the method to land in Microsoft, LinkedIn, Uber, Spotify, and other big companies not only with a technological vocation.
The real OKR revolution? Being able to measure what matters
“Measure What Matters: OKRs – The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth” is the original title of the OKR Revolution, which as you will have understood is the Bible of the OKR method. Already from the title, we understand that we are in the presence of a real paradigm.
OKRs are a simple idea that leads to growing up to 10 times higher. In which way? Allowing us to measure what matters.
The OKR formula, as mentioned, is simple and consists of O (= Objective) + KR (= Key Result). The explosive novelty is the quality that the two factors possess.
- The OKR objective is ambitious and strategic, it is expressed with a verb and indicates the direction in which to aim.
“A goal without a plan is just a desire” (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)
- The Key Results are the “how” we move in the direction we are taking and what are the milestones to be achieved. They are basically the measures of success, rather than the tasks to be delivered.
“It’s not a Key Result unless it has a number” (Marissa Mayer)
Every single lens has from 2 to 5 KR connected (typically there are 3). All the organization’s teams embrace the general objective (communicated and disseminated at various levels) and produce their own OKRs based on measurable and useful results for progressing towards the goal.
How to understand the OKRs what they are in 10 points
In the book OKR Revolution, you have the opportunity to enter the philosophy of the method at different levels. On the one hand, the examples of case studies, and on the other, the answers to the most common questions.
Here are the 10 fundamental points that I share as food for thought.
- Peter Drucker, who coined the term Management by Objectives (MBO) in 1954, is considered the father of modern management. The OKRs fit into the groove he traced and go further. The OKR method makes it possible to overcome an evident limitation of Drucker’s work, namely the risk of finding oneself with stagnant and unshared central objectives. Transparent and fluid connections at the various levels of the organization are an essential part of the OKR revolution.
- The OKR system is founded on four superpowers: 1) Focus and commitment on priorities 2) Alignment and connection for teamwork 3) Accountability tracking 4) Effort for amazing results.
- The OKR goal is “what” we must achieve. It is something significant, which prompts action and inspires us to overcome limits by looking at distant horizons.
- The key results analyze “how” to achieve company and organizational objectives. KR are SMART, that is specific (Specific), measurable (Measurable), feasible (Achievable), and limited in time (Time-Bound).
- A Deloitte study found that “clearly defined and freely shared goals” generate the greatest impact on resource engagement.
- According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with highly aligned employees – resources whose daily activities are tied to the organization’s vision – are more than twice as likely to perform efficiently. The same study finds that alignment is rare since only 7% of employees have a full understanding of corporate strategy.
- High-performance organizations have the ability to clearly identify the initiatives that make a difference and to focus on the work that generates value.
- Bill Gates notes that: “Having a good mission is not enough. We need concrete goal-setting and you need to know how you will get there“.
- Google’s Aspirational OKRs are set to reach 60-70%. This means that team members are encouraged to try and, why not, fail. Provided that the phase of failure is followed by learning of knowledge to be put to good use in setting the following OKR.
- If the company regulation says what can and cannot be done, the culture of the organization inspires people on what they should do.
“What we choose to measure is a window into our values and what we value” (Dov Seidman)
4 Super Powers OKR
Objectives and Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement With OKRs
The second book on OKRs I’m telling you about is in English edition by Paul Niven and Ben Lamorte. The title translated into Italian reads like this: “Objectives and Key Results: guiding the focus, alignment, and involvement with the OKRs”. The text is designed to support organizations in creating value through the application of the OKR framework.
The authors start from the ground up and explain OKRs what are and which business leaders use them and why. In particular (and it could not be otherwise) it explains why they work in expanding the thinking of teams (even remotely and in Smart Working).
The introductory part focuses on the part of brainstorming necessary to define the objectives. Then we move on to deepen the practices through OKR examples from the corporate world.
Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results
Radical Focus is a book by Christina Wodtke from 2016. This too is not available in Italian. The point of view is very interesting because it tells what good OKRs are and how to use them in the form of a short narrative story.
The story stars an imaginary start-up TeaBee (tea sales company). Hanna and Jack, the two partners, look for a way to get the project off the ground. The key to change, despite many difficulties, is the application of the OKR methodology.
Everything is narrated in a synthetic way (just 100 pages!) And yet detailed. In particular, Wodtke focuses on the definition of OKRs, their implementation, and the advantages of this methodology.
I do not anticipate anything else, but the definition of the OKR seems to be worthy of being referred because it is concise and exhaustive.
“OKR is the acronym for Objective and Key Results. The goal-based and key outcomes method is used to focus a group or individual around a bold goal. The OKRs formula is fairly standardized. The goal is qualitative, while the KR is quantitative. The goal is set for a certain period of time, usually a quarter. The key results tell if the goal has been achieved by the end of the allocated time.”
OKR the book by Luciano Castro
My experience as an IT manager led me to approach and then master the OKR revolution. I was able to test them in the field both as a team leader and as a consultant for startups and structured companies.
Like any methodology, it must be made to measure the reality with which it is confronted. And the OKRs can do it because, in my opinion, they have two other superpowers in addition to those I showed you previously: transparency in communication and strength in the ‘dissonance’ of the factors.
Transparency in communication allows the organization to be uniform in management, avoids information funnels, and makes responsibilities clear. Everyone (from board to management, from team leaders to the single individual) knows what they are doing, where they want to go, and, above all, why their contribution is important. Thus every piece of the business process is monitored and supervised, with measurable goals and no gray areas.
The other noteworthy aspect, of the OKR revolution, is the organized dissonance of the O factor and the KR factor. On the one hand, the aspirational goal, on the other the numerical results. In the midst of all this, an infinite number of applications open up.
So I couldn’t help but tell you about my experience with OKRs in detail. I am completing my book on OKR which will be released in April on the Kindle Store. I will talk to you about what OKRs are, I will explain how OKRs are written, and above all, I will give you examples of corporate and individual OKRs.