Friday, February 2, 2024

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

I don't remember exactly where I came across OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as a method of goal setting. But I was intrigued and bought John Doerr's book Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. I had previously encountered SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), but OKRs sounded like a better way to set goals. Having tried and failed with SMART goals a number of times over the years, I thought OKRs might be a better fit.

Doerr was a big fan of Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel who first introduced Doerr to OKRs. So Doerr wrote this book in an attempt to better spread the OKR mantra. In Measure What Matters, Doerr give a history of Grove's methods and how they related to Doerr's life, then goes on to explain the method with a series of case studies from successful businesses that use the model.

At the beginning of the book, I was quite on board with things. The book was well written, the case studies were interesting, and I was excited to make OKRs work for me. Unfortunately, the more I kept reading, the more my enthusiasm for the book waned. I started to feel like I wasn't really getting to understand the method in a more in-depth way, which I would expect from the book. The case studies also weren't really helpful - the more the book went on, the more it felt like everyone was saying "we succeeded because of OKRs," without really going into nitty-gritty details. I actually felt like the most useful part of the book was the appendix with Google's OKR playbook (published with their permission), which actually walks you through how to set good objectives and key results, as well as pitfalls to watch for. Prior to that, a good chunk of the book started to feel like fluff and filler, which wasn't great; it made me want to stop reading.

I also went into reading Measure What Matters hoping for help with personal goal setting. But Measure What Matters is very much written for companies and their leadership, not for an individual trying to improve themself. So that was very disappointing as well.

While I am glad to have encountered the idea of OKRs, I didn't feel like Measure What Matters was a very effective book for learning about them. I also feel like other books will be more helpful for individuals wanting to set effective goals for themselves than this one is.