I’ve just finished reading John Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters: OKRs - The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth, and it is full of really practical goal-setting tips and great stories from real companies like Intel, Google, and even a few smaller companies. What struck me throughout the book, though, is that the companies in many of these stories rely on spreadsheets, documents saved in company intranets, or even Post-it Notes hung up in their offices (and in one story, by the toilet) for communicating the goals. Using a spreadsheet or paper-based process for OKRs is like parking your Ferrari on a busy street under a tree on garbage day. Why would you risk ruining something so beautiful as a well-written goal with poor communication and accountability?
Let me back up a little bit…for those of you who don’t know, OKRs are Objectives and Key Results, and it is a term that refers to a collaborative goal-setting process for companies, teams and individuals. Doerr defines an Objective as “WHAT is to be achieved, no more and no less. By definition, objectives should be significant, concrete, action oriented, and (ideally) inspirational.” Clear objectives are key to successful execution, and they can be set on any time horizon; you can have an objective for 3-5 years (what we’d call a Winning Move), for one year (what we’d call an Annual Initiative) or for a quarter (what we’d call a Priority). Each objective should have associated Key Results, which “benchmark and monitor HOW we get to the objective. Effective OKRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable.” Key Results are typically numbers or KPIs, and they are on the quarterly time horizon.
Here’s a simple example of an OKR from chapter 5 of Doerr’s book:
Objective: Support Company Hiring
- Hire 1 director of finance and operations (talk to at least 3 candidates)
- Source 1 product marketing manager (meet with 5 candidates this quarter)
- Source 1 product manager (meet with 5 candidates this quarter)
It’s not hard to see how the specific and measurable results would increase the likelihood of achieving the objective. According to Doerr, there are four OKR “superpowers” that he learned from Andy Grove, “father of OKRs:” focus and commitment to priorities, alignment and connection for teamwork, tracking for accountability, and stretching for amazing. Doerr’s process involves setting OKRs for the company, for teams, and for individuals; sharing those goals; and linking them up for alignment. After you’ve gone through the effort of creating these well-written, company-wide and personal goals to focus, align, and stretch the team, the worst thing you could do is bury them in some spreadsheet.
Executing a goal involves more than just writing it down and dusting it off quarterly when you meet with your manager for a performance review. Bring your OKRs to life by tracking your progress weekly, collaborating with your team when you are not on track for success, and adjusting in real-time. If you are using OKRs in your company, you need a platform to communicate and execute them successfully.
Our Rhythm software is the ideal solution for companies using OKRs. In Rhythm, you can measure the progress toward Objectives and Key Results every week, keeping them front and center for everyone in the company. You can link company, team, and individual OKRs together to create a visual map of how the work relates, and you can break down silos and manage cross-functional work effortlessly. Best of all, Rhythm situates your OKRs in context by allowing you to see how they drive your company’s strategy. They aren’t just goals for the sake of having goals; you can see how they support your BHAG, your Core Purpose and Core Values. Using Rhythm as an OKR tool keeps the strategic relevance of your goals front and center.
Perhaps the biggest reason you shouldn’t use a spreadsheet to track OKRs is that it isn’t actionable or sustainable. As your company grows, your spreadsheet would have thousands of goals and couldn’t possibly be effective. It would likely be out of date by the time your teams finished putting the data in each quarter. To bring the OKRs to life, you need a system to execute them. You need Rhythm.
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