Measure What Matters Summary

One Paragraph Summary In his book Measure What Matters, John Doerr teaches us everything we need to know about OKRs—Objectives and Key Results. OKRs will allow you to track and align your goals within your business, small or large.

Measure What Matters Summary

Measure What Matters—How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
A book by John Doerr

John Doerr explains why you should use objectives and key results, short OKRs, in your team and company. His tips will make it easy to discover the relevant goals for your business. You will also learn how to measure progress by using key results as a metric. This way, you will precisely know if you are on track for success.

These are the things I learned by reading the Blinks to "Measure What Matters":

  • Having too many objectives is detrimental to my success
  • Having goals is not enough, I need to measure and adjust
  • I should try stretch goals once in a while

This post is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more.


Key Ideas

We must realize that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.—John Doerr

Having a handful of OKRs is enough to grow a business

Andy Grove was a cofounder of Intel. He used OKRs as the primary business tool to grow the company to one of the biggest in the world. Grove only had a handful of objectives to make it easier to focus.

Having objectives is not enough. You need to have a way to measure if the target has been reached. This measuring is done by setting Key Results.

It should be clear for everyone in a business when a specific Key Result has been met. Therefore Key Results should be simple to understand. If there is an argument whether the result has been reached, the KR was wrongly set.

Lean your ladder against the right wall

When you are working together, in a team or a business, everybody needs to know the general direction. Every member must know where to go and where not to go.

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.—Stephen Covey

A team should limit itself, trying to achieve only a few objectives. This focus is vital because everybody within the organization needs to have the same overall goal. You only can make something great when a team is well-aligned.

Three to five objectives should be enough for any organization.

Equally important is to have a time frame after which you want to assess your results. When you did not make the wished progress, objectives can be updated or replaced with new ones.

How to foster collaboration

You need transparency in your teams across the organization. Everybody working for the business should be aware of the OKRs. This transparency will increase the motivation to reach the wished outcome.

It is equally essential that the different objectives are aligned. This coordination can only be achieved if the objectives of different teams are well aligned—good OKRs foster collaboration. Teams need to ensure that their OKRs support the OKRs of the company and that they do not conflict with OKRs from other groups.

This alignment can be done in quarterly meetings where every team present their OKRs.

How to make progress and failure obvious

Do you know how to make it more likely to reach the critical results of an OKR? Write the objective and the key results down!

If the organization and each team within the company have written objectives, it will be easier to align, review, and adopt the OKRs.

You must review your objectives regularly. Every three months is an excellent period to start with.

Then come the four OKR superpowers: focus, align, track, and stretch.―John Doerr

One idea to make it easier to review your objectives is that you use a color code to make progress visible. You can use a scale from 0 to 1. Use the color red when there has been no progress (0.0 to 0.3). Use yellow to show that progress has been made, but results have not been met yet (0.4 to 0.6). And use green (0.7 to 1.0) where the key results have been reached.

Sometimes the results attached to a goal cannot be reached. This finding might be the right time to ditch your objective and set a better target.

Committed objectives vs. stretch objectives

Most people love a good challenge from time to time. The same can be said about teams. Studies show that employees can have higher motivation when presented with an exciting challenge. This boost in motivation can result in more commitment and an improved outcome.

To track such a challenge in a team or organization, you can use stretch objectives. In contrast to the committed goals, stretch objectives are allowed to fail. And they do, a daunting 40 % of the time. Still, stretch objectives can be a useful tool in your management belt.


First Insight: Having too many objectives is detrimental to my success

We must realize that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.―John Doerr

Having too many objectives is a problem for many people. You need to focus your effort. You cannot do it all. When we think about it, we certainly know it is true.

If I limit myself and allow only a handful of objectives for my business, it will give me a better focus than I have today.

When I start on a trek, I decide on which point of the compass I want to go. I need to do the same within my business.

Second Insight: Having goals is not enough, I need to measure and adjust

Well, I think the title of the book says it all: measure what matters. First, I need to find out what matters, and then I need to find a way to measure the progress toward what matters.

With the framework laid out by John Doerr, it should be easy to do. The thing I do not know is how to write good OKRs. But I guess it will come with practice.

Actions, and data, speak louder than words.―John Doerr

We all know the saying: What Gets Measured Gets Done. This statement might not be accurate in all cases, but at least if we have measured the progress and recognize we cannot achieve it, we then have a good reason to kill the objective and head in a better direction.

Third Insight: I should try stretch goals once in a while

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.―John Doerr

When I set goals for myself, I am cautious that I set goals that I can reach.

You might have read articles about goal setting. One tip you will always read in that context is only to set goals that are realistic and attainable. Do you have the skills, resources, time, and knowledge to reach the set goal?

This advice makes sense, but on the other hand, you might limit yourself. Why not set goals that seem a little bit too ambitious? John Doerr calls these goals stretch objectives.

When you choose to set stretch objectives, it might be a good, motivating challenge for you and your team. And with the mindset to allow yourself to fail 50 % of the time, it will not be too devastating when we indeed fail to reach your stretch goal.


Setting only a few objectives for the organization and a few goals for the teams working in the organization, you can significantly improve motivation and results.

Remember, it is vital to make these goals transparent and align the goals of different teams among each other and with the company's goals.

Do not be afraid to change, or even reject objectives when key results show that they cannot be met. Most likely, there will be better objectives.


  • Only have a handful of objectives
  • Measure if goals have been reached through Key Results
  • Only have a few objectives
  • Ensure everybody in the team knows the set objectives
  • Make your OKRs transparent
  • Make the OKRs public domain within the company
  • Align your OKRs with the OKRs of other teams
  • Write down the objectives you want to reach
  • Have written key results
  • Review your OKRs quarterly
  • Color code your progress
  • Ditch OKRs when necessary
  • Use stretch objectives to increase motivation

Measure What Matters Summary—related resources

  Read more about John Doerr on Wikipedia.

Subscribe to the Own Your Time newsletter and get free access to the Measure What Matters Summary PDF and all of my other book summary PDFs.

Posted on CuteMachine in business, entrepreneurship and management.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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