How Google Plans Using Objectives And Key Results (OKRs)

Since posting this overview, I’ve received inquires asking for more resources to learn more about the OKR process.  One very interesting view is from the book In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.  I highly recommend it for context around the OKR process.  I’ll post more resources soon.

In The Plex

If you’re looking for more resources outlining the OKR process, In The Plex is a great read.

One of the reasons I have not been blogging much the past few weeks is because of how busy things are at MindFire.  We are in the midst of a pivot to a new market segment with our multi-channel marketing automation platform, and anyone who has been through this before knows how hard it can be to repoint an organization that has years of built up momentum.  Exciting — but lots of work!

In late 2012, I flirted with the idea of using a method that Intel, Google, and others use for creating organizational focus and alignment, called Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs for short.

In a nutshell, the process starts by defining what is most important to the organization (as a whole), summarized in a handful of Objectives (somewhere around 3).  These are the key things the organization needs to do to.

For each Objective, there are a set of Key Results, which are measurable aspects of the Objective.  The Key Results allow you to define what success looks like.

Then, each functional area breaks apart the organization’s Objectives, and figures out how they will carry them out.  This results in an OKR for each functional area that is aligned to what the organization aims to achieve.  Lastly, each individual creates their own personal OKR, which aligns to their functional area.  

There’s a lot written about the process and its benefits, so I won’t go into great detail here, but not much is written from the perspective of a practitioner.  In other words, what is it like to roll it out?  Where do you start?  What are the problems that pop up?  How do you actually get it done?

I’ve done a lot of looking around, and I have not been able to find anything that provides details into real-life implementation.  If you know of a resource, let me know in the comments.

Because of this, I have documented the process from the start, writing down my thoughts and insights, objections from our teams and people, and methods we’ve found that help carry out the process.

However, I have come across a very helpful video on Tech Crunch.  In their words:

This gem is part of the Google Ventures Startup Lab‘s body of content, explained by current Googlers, and other technology execs; aimed at helping startups navigate things like A/B testing, holding productive meetings and more. While most of these talks are private, Google Ventures is gradually posting a number of these discussions online for all entrepreneurs to access. In the video below, Google Ventures partner Rick Klau, who runs the Startup Lab with Ken Norton, covers the value of setting objectives and key results (OKRs) and how this has been done at Google since 1999.

Klau, a former Google company employee himself, recalls the story of Kleiner Perkins’ partner and early Google investor John Doerr visiting the company early on to explain a method of setting goals he has witnessed at Intel (as told in author Steven Levy’s book, In The Plex). What’s super interesting about Klau’s presentation is that he found the actual deck that Doerr used when presenting to the Larry, Sergey, and the rest of the Google team in 1999 (around 7 minutes in).

Here’s the video; it is well worth the hour and 20 minutes:

I plan on sharing more details in upcoming posts around what it is like to roll this out, and how it fits into defining your corporate culture.

What do you think?  Have you used OKRs, or rolled them out to your organization?

Case Study: Building a Blog That Generates $500,000 Yearly

Have you ever wondered how bloggers generate income?

John Chow, blogger

John Chow: A blogger who generates $500,000 p/year.  Looks like a nice guy.

Previously, we looked at Tim Ferriss and methods he used to build a high traffic blog, and today we’ll examine a blogger named John Chow, who claims to generate on the order of $500,000 per year with his blog.

John has an interesting story: read more about John here, and take a look at his smiling face on the right of this page.

He seems like a regular, down-to-earth guy, who has put in hard work to intelligently build his blogging business.  While some of his stuff seems a little salesy, his methods are worth a look.

At the bottom of this post is a video [56 minutes] where he describes the techniques I’m about to summarize.

Most often, people think that selling advertising on a blog is the only way to make money. John’s model certainly incorporates advertising, but he claims that only 1/3 of his revenue comes from the model where you get paid based on the number of pageviews.

The majority of his revenue comes from what’s called the “back end”: a well-planned system for generating income behind the scenes, even while he sleeps.

Here’s how John does it. Read more of this post

People Don’t Buy ‘What’ You Do, They Buy ‘Why’ You Do it

If you’ve never visited TED.com, you really need to take a look. It’s filled with glorious ideas that are candy for your brain. Each speaker does a short presentation (no more than 20 minutes) on a very specific topic.  It’s easy to get sucked in for hours listening to different thought-leaders.

One such presenter and topic is Simon Sinek and his “Golden Circle” philosophy.

In a nutshell, Simon believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  He argues that for leaders to inspire action from their employees, customers, or anyone else involved in their mission, they have to successfully communicate the why behind their ideas.

As he puts it:

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.

Simon has written a book called “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” where he lays out a process for getting to your why.

If you have a moment, watch the video (18 minutes); I think you’ll find it worth your time.  What do you think of this concept?

Eloqua CEO: “We Had $200k in Bank Day Before IPO”

Joe Payne, Eloqua, Says Company Had $200k in Bank Day Before IPO

Joe Payne, Eloqua

Talk to most entrepreneurs, and you’ll likely hear incredible stories of near-death experiences.  I can’t think of one entrepreneur I know who hasn’t stared failure in the face (in some cases, multiple times).  It’s scary, sometimes nearly incapacitating — but you somehow find your way through and life goes on.

Here’s an anecdote to remember next time you’re feeling down: Eloqua (who happens to a quasi-MindFire marketing automation competitor), had a successful IPO in August of this year (they raised $92 million).

But according to Bill Flook of the Washington Business Journal, Joe Payne (CEO) reports that they only had $200k in the bank the day before going public.  Holy cow!

From looking at Eloqua’s SEC filings, I don’t think they were in any near-death situation, but it just goes to show that to be an entrepreneur, you need guts (and tons of help — it’s very difficult to do on your own).

Kudos to Joe Payne and the entire Eloqua team for their continued success. Here’s the full article on the Washington Business Journal.

What about you?  What near-death experiences have you had?  Do you agree that nearly everyone goes through them?

V2MOM: How SalesForce.com Went From Idea to Billion-Dollar SAAS Company

Marc's book on Salesforce.com and V2MOM

Marc’s book on Salesforce.com and V2MOM [Amazon]

One area that we spend a lot of time thinking about (and working to improve) is our ability to communicate our company’s direction in a way that aligns everyone.

We use the word “alignment” a lot around the office, and we’ve made a number of changes that have helped us improve in this area, like daily stand-ups (video example here).  Alignment is critical for start-ups and companies going through rapid growth.

In “Behind The Cloud“, Marc Benioff (co-founder of Salesforce.com), shared the V2MOM planning process he and his team used to grow Salesforce.com into the largest SaaS company in the world.

The acronym stands for vision, values, methods, obstacles, and metrics.  The purpose of V2MOM is to create alignment, from the leadership team out to every team member.

Here’s how the V2MOM process works:  Read more of this post

Mind Hack: Increase Your Ability To Foresee The Future By 30%

I’m not a negative person, but here’s something I’ve noticed: projects fail at an alarming rate.  One reason seems to be that people are afraid to speak up during the planning phase.  Unless you’ve fostered a safe environment that encourages people to raise issues, concerns may fester in silence and only become evident when its too late.

A premortem is a technique (pioneered by a psychologist named Gary Klein) for minimizing this kind of risk.  Instead of being held after an event like a postmortem, the premortem is Read more of this post

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