— “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”
Running a business, no matter if it’s a startup or established enterprise, isn’t an easy task. It may seem that your team is full of brilliant ideas and all of them have enough potential to generate millions of dollars. But instead of achieving business growth and receiving a lot of money, your company ends up with frustration, wasted time, and lost resources. Why is it so? The answer may be hidden in execution since it plays a crucial role in business success.
Measure What Matters is written by John Doerr, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who invested $12 million in Google in 1999 when it was a no-name startup. In his book, Doerr describes a goal-setting system called OKR that helps organizations and teams not only meet but also exceed expectations.
We read Measure What Matters and wrote this summary to help you implement even the most ambitious ideas.
What is OKR?
The abbreviation “OKR” stands for “Objectives and Key Results” and briefly describes what this technique is about. Objectives are destination points that a company aims to reach while key results show how to get there.
For instance, “grow revenue through increased customer acquisition and engagement” may be an objective for an e-commerce store. In this case, key results may include “launch 5 marketing campaigns targeted at different categories of potential buyers” and “increase the number of email subscribers to 50,000”.
If a team wants to move in the right direction and avoid getting lost along the way, it should set effective KRs. It means that they must be realistic, specific, measurable, verifiable and should leave no room for doubts.
Committed OKRs vs aspirational OKRs
In Measure What Matters, Doerr distinguishes two types of OKRs: committed and aspirational.
Committed OKRs support base-level goals that must be fully achieved. For example, “ensuring that a product meets industry standards” can be a committed OKR for a team that plans to begin the production. After this goal becomes “business as usual,” it may cease to be an OKR for that specific company.
Aspirational OKRs, on the other hand, depict how the team wants their product or company to look. They are more ambitious than committed OKRs (Doerr even calls them “moonshots”) and they stretch the capabilities of an organization. A team should set aspirational OKRs although it may have no real knowledge of what it will take to get the desired result. For instance, “become one of the top 3 yogurt suppliers on the local market” may be an aspirational OKR for a mid-sized dairy company.
Using 4 OKR superpowers
In Measure What Matters, Doerr not only describes the OKR framework but he also explains what teams should do to make it work. Specifically, he outlines four basic OKR “superpowers” that companies must rely on when bringing their ideas to life.
Superpower #1. Focus and commit to priorities
To measure what matters, an organization should first define what matters. This superpower is all about making hard choices and prioritizing things. Successful businesses are clear about initiatives that can make a real difference and always keep a focus on them. Effective teams can also filter out unimportant stuff that doesn’t bring them closer to a set goal.
Superpower #2. Align and connect for teamwork
Transparency and teamwork are two essential pillars of the OKR system. It means that the company’s goals are openly shared so all team members can link their individual objectives to the global strategy. Doerr believes that this approach increases people’s engagement, strengthens collaboration, and brings meaning to work.
Superpower #3. Track for accountability
One of the main advantages of the OKR technique is that it’s very flexible. According to Doerr, teams should always follow up on their progress and correct a course if needed. Continues reassessments and periodic check-ins help companies get back on track in case something went wrong or replace a key result if it becomes irrelevant.
Superpower #4. Stretch for amazing
By creating aspirational OKRs, teams can reach goals that they’ve considered impossible. Doerr claims that when the bar is set high, people are motivated to go outside their comfort zones. So the framework encourages teams to test their limits, do more than they’ve thought they can, and exceed all expectations.
Measure What Matters is a great book for everyone who wants to aim high, strives to improve their businesses, and seeks ways to lead their companies to success. Besides theoretical content, it contains a lot of case studies, including the first-person story of Google. So readers can trace the path of ambitious startups that managed to become modern tech giants.