Ged Carroll

Measure What Matters by John Doerr

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I was recommended Measure What Matters by my friend and fellow ex-Yahoo Cathy Ma. Cathy found the book useful in her way through managing teams. In Measure What Matters, John Doerr explains the idea of objectives and key results or OKRs.

Measure What Matters

About John Doerr

If you’ve worked in or around the Silicon Valley technology space from the PC age through to the 2010s Doerr’s name will have a passing familiarity to you. Doerr was a salesman at Intel in the 1970s, realised that there were too many good people ahead of him and took an over in venture capital instead. Doerr was involved in funding:

About OKRs

For all of the companies that Doerr has funded he has advocated OKRs. The idea of OKRs came from Doerr’s colleague at Intel Andy Grove. OKRs are a collaborative process. The idea is that it is used with teams and the individuals who make up the teams. Management seeks to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. The key results in OKRs are how you track progress towards the objective, create alignment within the team, and encourage engagement around measurable goals. They are also supposed to flex with circumstance, which is one of the key points of separation from Peter Drucker’s management by objectives (MBO).

The first part of the book Measure What Matters explains the origin and process behind OKRs.

You can get everything that you need in the first two chapters covering 35 pages.

The Cult of OKR

The rest of the book is a series of self aggrandising endorsements of OK from senior executives who are OKR advocates:

It crosses the line for me and almost reads like a high water mark for Silicon Valley hubris; Doerr’s book was published in 2018. Three years later and:

Secondly, Doerr’s book, whilst acknowledging Andy Groves role of OKR creator; fails to acknowledge that Andy gave a good descriptor of OKRs in his 1983 book High Output Management.

I think one of the reasons that I am not that keen on Measure What Matters, is that the book doesn’t work for culturally as a non-American. Instead I would recommend Andy Grove’s own book High Output Management. More books that might be of interest here.