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Measure What Matters

How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

By John Doerr
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Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Measure What Matters (2018) chronicles John Doerr’s lifelong journey of helping organizations implement objectives and key results – otherwise known as OKRs. With the help of OKRs, companies like Google and nonprofits like the Gates Foundation have been able to transform the way they set goals to reach new heights.

Key idea 1 of 7

OKRs were born at microchip giant Intel, where the author worked in the 1970s.

The plots of many classic stories and fairy tales hinge on the pursuit of love. But who would’ve thought that love would play a central role in a somewhat less fanciful tale – that of the author discovering business objectives and key results, or OKRs for short?

In the summer of 1975, author John Doerr was trying to win back his ex-girlfriend Ann. He knew she had a job in Silicon Valley, but he wasn’t sure where. As fate would have it, however, he found her working at Intel, the company where he’d just scored an internship.

The love story ended happily in the end, with him and Ann getting back together (they’re still married). And as their romance reignited, another inspiring story began: the author’s discovery of OKRs.

The luminary behind OKRs was Andy Grove, one of Intel’s cofounders. Then the vice president, he’d go on to become the CEO, and his visionary leadership would be integral to the company’s transformation from a small business into the global giant it is today. The use of OKRs was, of course, a central part of his approach.

After getting hired, the author attended one of Grove’s seminars, where he explained that OKRs aren’t about what you know, but what you do with what you know. If you want things to get done, execution must trump knowledge.

For example, one of Intel’s objectives (Os) at the time was to be number one in the midrange computer component industry. By setting just a few such objectives, Grove explained, the company as a whole could truly focus on pursuing them..

But how would they know that they’d reached this objective? That’s where key results (KRs) come in, Grove went on. For example, one KR at the time was to “win” ten designs for the Intel 8085 microprocessor – a win being every time the microprocessor was used in products designed by other companies.

Such KRs had to be measured simply with a clear yes or no. Everyone involved – known as contributors – would have to be able to understand whether the KR had been met or not, without argument.

By implementing this management system at Intel, Grove was able to grow the company by 40 percent every year throughout his eleven-year tenure as CEO.

Seeing the impact of OKRs in action, the author began a lifetime of commitment to spreading this revolutionary management philosophy to other companies.

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