John Doerr, the author of Measure What Matters, is an unashamed advocate of building organizations with the support of ambitious goal setting and continual improvement.
John's book explains how leaders can reach new heights of profitability, innovation, and employee engagement with the implementation of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that must be supported by Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFR's). Today's world of commerce is fast-changing, endlessly challenging, and full of opportunity. Leaders and their organizations need to be agile, adaptable, and willing to reach for the stars. It can be challenging to make progress towards your star of choice without clear objectives. Without a culture that encourages innovation and isn't afraid to learn from its own mistakes, the motivation to work continually towards those high-flying goals can evaporate.The book is illustrated with numerous examples of how successful organizations have implemented OKRs and provides a blueprint for fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability, and with it, company-wide peak performance.
Collaborative Goal Setting and Tracking
OKR’s began life at Intel in the '70s as Management Business Objectives. OKRs help to push employees to succeed and collaborate to achieve more each day. Over the next three decades, the OKR methodology was honed and adapted for almost any organization – no matter how big or small, young, or old it is. OKRs have 'oomph' and accountability built in so each contributor to the business can be excited and enthusiastic about the work they are doing and the places it will take them.
Research shows that simply writing a goal down increases your chances of reaching it. Public goals are more likely to be achieved than private ones. People who record their goals and share their progress towards them achieve 43% more than those who keep their dreams to themselves. These enlightening facts about how humans operate are behind the OKR process.
The transparency and public availability of OKRs drive clarity within the business and accountability for individual action. They create momentum towards the goals that encourage everyone in the pursuit of greatness.
While collaborative, clear objectives provide direction for the business and the teams within it, the ‘Key Results’ element provides a method for tracking progress. Key results should be metrics that are uncolored by opinion or perspective. A lofty objective is supported by three to five clear, actionable, measurable key results. Examples of good and lousy objectives and key result pairings are given throughout the book. Metrics can be set as key results to ensure that quality isn't compromised. Doerr uses the example of the number of vouchers processed being countered by the number of errors incurred to illustrate how multiple key results ensure that the intent of the objective is not compromised.
OKRs Connecting Individuals to Organization's Mission and Values
Studies show us that humans are driven to connect. We want to see how we belong in an organization and why and how we matter to the whole. OKRs answer this drive, they link employees at all levels of a business to the leader's aspirations. Doerr argues that when implemented well, OKRs provide a clear understanding of how each role weaves into the organization's mission and values.
OKRs enable contributor alignment. Aligned employees are twice more likely to be top performers than unaligned colleagues. What's more, the process of public goal setting and measurement of progress towards these goals eliminates instances of doubling up on work – redundant efforts are jettisoned, time, money, and personal motivation are saved. If this alone were the benefit of the OKR process, all organizations should adopt it.
The book also provides OKR case study examples and a checklist for OKR hygiene. This checklist ensures the objective setting, tracking, and review is continually refined and perfected to propel an organization forward.
The truism that 'less is more' is used by Doerr to show that too many objectives can pull people in different directions. Inevitably this causes confusion and distractions, with goals being missed stakeholders becoming frustrated. Three to five objectives per cycle is optimal for pushing businesses towards success. Goal setting needs to be aspirational and functional, bottom-up, and top-down, so every person willingly gets behind them. Collaboration, flexibility, and a willingness to fail also need to be built into the OKR system for it to work.
Continuous Performance Management
To embark on a journey that takes businesses into the future, management and HR processes need to evolve. Systems of one-way feedback, annual reviews tied to remuneration, and opaque leadership decisions are old hat. These processes stifle creativity, collaboration, and innovation – the three behaviors that are critical for the future of work.
Job seekers and employees today expect more from their workplaces than a monthly paycheck and benefits. Growth, innovation, and accountability are becoming the new stars of the workplace. New management styles need to support new forms of work that employees are demanding from their supervisors. Employees need to be empowered to deliver what their business needs and their customers demand. Regular conversations, networked communication, and consistent recognition support these new expectations. What's more, it fits perfectly with the OKR system for achieving more and engaging a workforce for greatness.
Continual performance demands coaching moments that are decoupled from remuneration. OKRs work well within strengths-focused cultures, fact-driven decision making, along with a dose of emotional intelligence and empathy. OKRs are perfect for today's changing workplace, where inclusive and caring styles are replacing pure logic.
Alignment and transparency are naturally present in the CFR (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition) management style, especially ones underpinned by OKRs. CFRs are the way of the future and one that employees are demanding more and more. Employee engagement increases it by three factors with frequent "one to ones" which are at the core of the CFR management style. CFR conversations should include regular check-ins on progress, goal setting, and two-way coaching to career growth discussions and light-weight performance reviews. When coupled with the OKR system, this coaching style supports the achievement of objectives and quickly identifies poorly designed key results.
Doerr reminds us throughout the book how easy it can be to lose track of progress and sight of goals in the day to day operations of a business. CFRs not only improve performance but enable people to keep sight of the big picture and the responsibility they must generate the brush strokes needed to paint their organization's future.
With strong leadership, a creative culture and sound judgment, OKRs can be the secret sauce that propels organizations to further success. OKRs combined with CFRs can provide the foundations needed to build a culture of success for those that don't. CFR's can inject the much-needed flexibility to change a stagnant culture into one that is vibrantly alive.
The clear, collaborative goal-setting culture explained by Doerr helps teams and individuals to understand the current priorities. Clearly defined goals help build employee engagement and link teams' work to a broader mission. OKRs combined with CFRs may well be what drives the future of work.