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Book Review: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock The World With OKRs
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Book Review: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock The World With OKRs - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock The World With OKRs

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock The World With OKRs

John Doerr was once an engineer at Intel, but today he is the chairman of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm. Once upon a time, he was an original investor and board member at Google, and much of his new book is a look at Google in those early days. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs (Portfolio, 2018) certainly delivers on the “how” part of its title, but only in the descriptive, retrospective sense of “how,” as in “this is how Google did it.”

OKRs are “objectives and key results,” and this is the name of the system Doerr brought to Google from Intel, when Google was a tiny handful of brilliant tech people with no business knowledge.

If you’re a tech-head who loves the stories of Silicon Valley’s heyday, you will find much to enjoy in these anecdotes of today’s big names. As Google is not the only firm Doerr has worked with, the writer also provides case studies of how OKRs have worked elsewhere, including MyFitness Pal, Intuit, Adobe, and U2 frontman Bono’s ONE Campaign.

However, if you have even a rudimentary grasp on the collaborative goal-setting concept, or if you’ve read a couple of books by the founders of other great companies such as Pixar and KIND, you won’t find much of anything new in Measure What Matters. There’s nothing wrong with the content itself; it’s just that the content doesn’t sound very new.

“An OBJECTIVE,” Doerr writes, “is simply WHAT is to be achieved, no more and no less. By definition, objectives are significant, concrete, action oriented, and (ideally) inspirational. When properly deployed, they’re a vaccine against fuzzy thinking--and fuzzy execution.”

He continues, “KEY RESULTS benchmark and monitor HOW we get to the objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable.”

Anyone who’s taken New Year’s resolutions seriously already knows the conceptual framework here. There is a bit of next-level thinking: aspects of managing OKRs make up the “OKRs in Action” section, where Doerr breaks the concept into FOCUS (and commit to priorities), ALIGN (and connect for teamwork), TRACK (for accountability), and STRETCH (for amazing). He calls these the “superpowers,” and this is probably where most of the practical value can be found, although it remains largely philosophical.

This is not to ho-hum Doerr’s book, which is a pleasant, enjoyable read. The stories are interesting and the concepts are affirming, but for an investor who looks for disruptors, there’s very little in this book that’s conceptually disruptive. And maybe that’s the point. Perhaps Doerr’s advice is that no matter how innovative and game-changing a product is, the people who deliver it need some old-school management thinking, although not extremely old school, as there is some element of wiping out top-down hierarchies and emphasizing transparency and collaboration.

Read it because it’s interesting. Skip it if you need something more specifically hands-on.

 

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Book Review: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock The World With OKRs - Executive Leadership Articles

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