Measure what matters: Book notes

Bharat Kalluri / 2022-11-27

Review & comments

My current company (Refyne) religiously does OKRs, hence I've seen OKRs implemented at the company scale. And we saw both pros and cons. But like any tool or philosophy, the implementation details define everything.

This book was a fascinating read because it really crystallized the concepts behind the tool and how they were imagined. It also had a ton of examples as to how OKRs help solidify and direct vision. I've thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend this book to anyone who is currently doing OKRs or is interested in them. Its not a very long read too, which is an added advantage.

Onto book notes

OKR - Objective & Key results


What needs to be achieved

  • significant
  • concrete
  • action oriented
  • inspirational

Key Result

How to get to an objective

  • Specific
  • Time bound
  • Aggressive but realistic
  • Measurable & verifiable

Its not a Key result unless its a number

Also, very important. Goals are necessary but can go badly and people might be blind sided.

Clearly defined goals widely shared make sure there is no philosophical crisis.

For example, google's objective is "Systematic innovator at scale"

OKR's Superpowers

  • Focus and comment on priorities
  • Align & comment
  • Track for accountability
  • Stretch for amazing
  • CFR: Conversations, feedback & Recognition
  • Continuous improvements
  • Culture

Have personal OKRs, better yet get it printed & pasted

If vectors point to opposite directions, they add up to zero.

Measuring what matters: what is most important for the next 3, 6 & 9 months

Values cannot be transferred by memo, similarly goals also cannot be transferred by memo. They need to be embodied by leadership.

When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it - Jeff Weiner

Good cadence & realignment is very important, A quarterly OKR cycle is a good place to start.

The more ambition the KR, the higher risk for overlooking vital criterion. Always join Quality & Quantity.

OKR goals cascade, the company OKR will inturn decide vertical OKRs and team OKRs

There would be situations where OKRs of one team are dependent on other. If the dependencies are not identified earlier, then there is a risk of bad outcomes. Co ownership is not recommended since it might turn into a blame game.

The more ambitious the objective, the more conservative the KRs would be. This is a classic mistake.

We don't want bureaucratic compliance, we want enthusiastic compliance

Tracking is very important for re-calibrating. A weekly check in is recommended to make sure that the OKRs are moving in the right direction.

Scoring- if by the end, a team meets all KRs then the sights are set too low, they need to be upped.

The two OKR buckets (by google)

  • Committed - for the business
  • Aspirational - high risk, big picture, future. Get 10X or 1000% better

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted - Albert Einstein

Continuous performance management (CFR)

Conversation: Authentic, richly textured exchange between manager & contributor

Feedback: Bidirectional or networked communication among peers to evaluate program & guide future development

Recognition: Expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes

Divorce compensation from OKRs

Compensation -> Backwards looking assessment

OKR -> Forward looking dialogue between leaders and contributors

Why? Because employees stop stretching for amazing & start playing defensive

For example, in google OKRs amount to less than one third of the perf rating. Their OKR numbers are wiped from the system after each cycle.

Effective One on Ones

  • goal setting & reflection
  • ongoing program updates
  • two way coaching
  • career growth
  • lightweight perf reviews

Feedback should be ad-hoc, realtime & bidirectional

Recognition: P2P, clear criteria, share recognition stories, make recognition freq & attainable, recognize company goals & strategies

Mangers are not paid for the amount of work they do, they are paid for quality of decisions they make

One one ones at Zune -> one hour, once every two weeks, cannot cancel, cannot be late, cannot talk about work

Three questions

  • Whats making you happy
  • What saps your energy
  • Whats your dream job

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Encourage high risk initiatives, what's one high risk item you worked on last week?

Pulses: Continuous simple surveys

A rule book can tell what I can and cannot do, culture tells you what I should do

Hand crafted by Bharat Kalluri