Measure what matters and take the road to success

July 6, 2018

First-person stories and real-life examples of the success of OKRs (objectives and key results) come together in a unique narrative in John Doerr's new book, Measure What Matters

“We must realise – and act on the realisation – that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” – Andrew ‘Andy’ Grove

Having backed and supported the success of some of the biggest tech brands in the world, including Google, Intuit, and Amazon, among others, it is not surprising that John Doerr has become a veritable legend in the Silicon Valley. However, his lasting legacy is unlikely to be the myriad tech giants he has helped build, but rather the OKR (Objectives & Key Results) framework he is credited with building and popularising.

The OKR system has been praised by people of the likes of Bill Gates and Larry Page, and is being increasingly adopted by organisations around the world as they look to emulate the success of these tech giants. Doerr’s Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth can perhaps be taken as the defining work on the topic, coming from the creator himself, but it falls short of being a thorough comprehensive guide to OKRs and their usefulness.

Make no mistake, Measure What Matters is replete with OKR success stories and case studies where the framework has helped companies find their “true north” and build step-by-step processes to achieve success. With first-person stories from the CEOs of Google and YouTube, and glowing endorsements by Bono and Bill Gates (there’s an entire chapter to the role OKRs play at the Gates Foundation), the first-time reader is sure to come away with a strong sense of the benefits of implementing OKRs in their organisation.

However, while the examples (and there are a lot of them) do a fair job of demonstrating how OKRs have helped some of the world’s top firms streamline themselves, there is a certain intangible “something” that Measure What Matters seems to fall short of.

Nowhere in the book is there a definitive chapter explaining what OKRs are, how they work, or how you should go about implementing the framework in your organisation. For the most part, the reader is left to draw conclusions from the examples for themselves. Doerr does not appear to have intended the book as an explainer for the OKR framework and what steps companies can take to implement it so much as to create a “demo reel” showcasing the success of his idea. And therein lies the rub.

While Measure What Matters and Doerr may not have set out to make this the definitive resource on the OKR framework, the fact remains that many entrepreneurs and business leaders will refer to the book as a guide to implementing OKRs in their own firms. In the absence of clear advice on the same, more than a few readers are likely to be disappointed in their quest for answers. Measure What Matters will definitely convince even the biggest doubters that OKRs are an effective framework for building towards success; however, how to go about measuring what matters is still a quest and readers will have to walk alone.

Nevertheless, Measure What Matters is a rare glimpse into the history and ideas behind one of the most popular and widely adopted management practices of our time, and that reason alone makes it a definite must-read. Over a career spanning more than four decades, John Doerr has been privy to the rise of some of the biggest successes of the digital age, and those experiences and encounters are distilled with vivid clarity and detail in his book. I sincerely hope that John Doerr releases a second edition of this work in the future; with a little more information, and a little less self-congratulation, Measure What Matters has the potential to be a defining management book for the current generation.

Rating: 3.5/5



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