November 6, 2018

My Personal OKRs

measuing a mountain

I just finished reading John Doerr’s Measure What Matters. It’s an inside look at the culture around objectives and key results, or OKRs, as they’re commonly called. For those that aren’t familiar, OKRs are a framework for setting goals and measuring progress towards those goals used by the likes of Intel, Google, and The Gates Foundation, as well as countless startups.

Although John Doerr’s book was geared towards using OKRs at the organizational level (and packed with lots of unnecessary fluff), I found the concept of OKRs both fascinating and appealing. Fascinating in that there’s a genuine cult that’s grown around the concept and anyone that uses OKRs seems to swear by them. Appealing in that they seem to provide a solution to two of the problems I’ve always had when setting goals:

  1. Goals tend to be too broad.
  2. Progress is hard to measure and grade.

OKRs effectively tackle both problems.

Objectives are less of a New Year’s resolution and more of a business goal (or personal goal in my case). They are tied to some sort of measurable outcome, and help narrow otherwise broadly defined goals. They can still be wildly ambitious, but should always be at least a little bit achievable. Instead of a goal of “get fit,” an objective would be “lose 20 pounds.” They should also have a deadline associated with them.

Key results are the tactical part of OKRs. They are the things you’re measuring and—when achieved—will spell certain success for your objective. If we’re running with the “lose 20 pounds” example above, some key results could be “eliminate sugar and fast food from diet” or “run for 20 minutes four times a week.” Key results are easy to track—even if they’re hard to do—and give you a clear, objective (pun intended) way to measure your progress.

This combination of defining better goals (objectives) and being able to reliably track progress (key results) have me convinced that OKRs are worth trying out. So I’m going to implement quarterly OKRs for myself for the next year to see how things go.

Part of the OKR strategy, though, is radical transparency. In an OKR-driven organization, everyone in the company is supposed to have access to their colleagues, bosses, and overall company’s OKRs so that everyone is held accountable.

Personal OKRs are a little trickier to be transparent about, though. Sure, I can tell my wife about them and put check-ins on my calendar to review them, but I want to be more transparent to a wider audience. Since I have a few thousand monthly readers of my blog and newsletter, I figured y’all would be the perfect people to share my OKRs with.

So, I’ve set up a section on my website to dump my OKRs. Each quarter, I’ll grade and review the previous quarter’s OKRs as well as define the next set. I plan on posting a retrospective at the end of the quarter here on my blog, and welcome any feedback, criticism, or encouragement from any of you along the way.

Although I’ve been exposed to OKRs before, using them at a personal level is new to me. I feel like my first set of objectives are poorly defined, but I’m hoping that they will get better as I get deeper into the process of using OKRs.

If you want to follow along, bookmark my OKR page or subscribe to my email newsletter. And, as always, you can email me with feedback whenever you want.