Measure What Matters

How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation rock the world with OKRs
John E. Doerr

By the title of the book (and by me not reading samples and/or summaries), I assumed it would try to teach how to distinguish what measures mattered when trying to accomplish something.

When reading about accomplishing progress, one of the tips I’ve read several times, and in several different contexts is keeping track of changes. And to track of some of these changes, we need a measure. So I thought this book would easily fill that space, but it didn’t.

What it did, is kinda reinforcing the idea that you need to measure your progress so you know how good are you doing, making easier to determine what is almost done, what needs some help, and what is at risk of jeopardy.

The main concept Doerr introduces is OKRs (short for Objectives and Key Results). You phrase an objective, and a list of (measurable) key results that will determine whether you accomplished that objective or not.

Doerr also tried to make a case for transparency, honesty, and humility in the workplace. Keeping the OKRs public, so everyone in any level in the hierarchy can see them; being honest when reporting the accomplished progress and the end of a “round”, so the company can actually guide efforts to save objectives in risk; and humility to accept that you won’t always (and, indeed, it’s better if you never) finish all the key results.

As for now, I’m not sure if “cherrypicking” cases it’s misleading per se. I know that showing only the events that prove your hypothesis it’s naive at best, and malevolent at worse. But management is not an exact science. You have an idea, you’ve found it has worked for you before, and you want to share so other people may find it useful. I don’t see a problem with that.

Even if they get somewhat repetitive, I think every chapter keeps building over the previous idea.

Could this book have been shorter? Yes. Did I hate that I felt so through my reading? No.

If you’re interested in OKRs, convinced that it may work for your organization, and unwilling to read success cliché stories, you can read the Resource (Appendix) 1: Google’s OKR Playbook. It’s kind of a specification for the OKR system inside Google.