Better Execution Through Quantified Work


Keys to OKR Success: A Q&A with the Man Who Introduced OKRs to Google, John Doerr

Over the past couple of weeks, we've written quite a bit about Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and their impact on businesses. Today, we are proud to bring you a special Q&A with John Doerr who takes a look back at how OKRs were adopted by Intel—and later by Google—and how he views the future of goal setting.

Kris Duggan: Where did you learn about setting goals using OKRs?

John Doerr:  I was first exposed to OKRs at Intel in the 1970s. At the time, Intel was transitioning from a memory company to a microprocessor company, and Andy Grove and the management team needed employees to focus on a set of priorities in order to make a successful transition. Creating the OKR system helped tremendously and we all bought into it. I remember being intrigued with the idea of having a beacon or north star every quarter, which helped set my priorities. It was also incredibly powerful for me to see Andy’s OKRs, my manager’s OKRs, and the OKRs for my peers. I was quickly able to tie my work directly to the company’s goals. I kept my OKRs pinned up in m…


Win at Work with 5 Goal Science Best Practices

Alignment. Engagement. Productivity. These challenges keep executives up at night. We looked at how OKRs revolutionized goal-setting models, but industries are changing and so are the psychology and technology behind goal setting. They are evolving into Quantified Work with a goal-science foundation.

There are a lot of questions surrounding Quantified Work and goal science. What types of goals are most effective? Who should be involved? How can employees best achieve goals? Beyond the basic S.M.A.R.T. model, five key pillars and goal science best practices can help take goals and goal achievement to the next level.

Without investing six, nine, or 12 months planning, there are incremental steps organizations can take to bridge the gap between human resources and business requirements. They can begin to put employee success first on the way to improving operational execution across the entire business.

Get answers to common goal-setting questions in our new Goal Science Best Practices whitepaper. Just enter your email address in the box below where it says "Receive our Wh…


OKRs… to Stretch or Not to Stretch?

I meet with a lot of organizations to talk about goal setting and one of the most debated topics is stretch goals – to set them or not to set them. What effect will they have on the team? Will stretch goals motivate or demotivate employees? Should we include both stretch goals and attainable goals in goal-setting exercises?

Traditional goal-setting strategies such as S.M.A.R.T. (smart, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) encourage employees to focus on setting goals that they can achieve. In contrast, Google and its staff of 40 in 1999 adopted a strategy that asked employees to set Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that were a little uncomfortable and slightly out of reach, according to the Google Ventures StartUp Lab workshop, “How Google sets goals: OKRs.” In earlier posts, we pointed out some of the video highlights and answered some critical OKRs questions. Now, we want to touch a little on philosophy.

There are differing opinions about stretch goals. Some say not to dismiss them. Ot…


3 Advances That Will Improve the Google OKR Model

This year’s March Madness is proving once again that accurately predicting someone else’s performance over a fixed period of time is really hard. If we were allowed to modify our picks after the first round, would they change? Would there be a better chance of one of us taking home Warren Buffett's $1B?

Like we do the morning after a big game, we have the benefit of time passing to assess how and why Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are successful at Google, and what advances can be made to meet changing business requirements. The Google Ventures StartUp Lab workshop “How Google sets goals: OKRs” which we outlined in an earlier post, gives us insight and answers to some of the most relevant and critical OKR questions, such as:

Who sets the goals?

The answer at Google (and everywhere else OKRs are successful) is everyone. Goals are set at the personal, team, and company levels. These goals are then made as readily available to view internally as an employee’s position, organization affiliation, and phone number. This provides visibility into what everyone is work…


How Google Grew from 40 to 40,000 Employees

Since John Doerr introduced goal setting to Google and its staff of 40 in 1999, the company has publicly shared its views on the value of setting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). As I watched last spring’s Google Ventures StartUp Lab workshop again about “How Google sets goals: OKRs,” I was reminded how far we’ve come, yet how much we still have to do to move businesses forward into goal science.

OKR is an acronym for Objective - Key Result. Don Dodge, a developer advocate at Google, described the OKR process this way. "Every quarter every group at Google sets goals, called OKRs, for the next 90 days. Most big companies set annual goals like improving or growing something by x%, and then measure performance once a year. At Google a year is like a decade. Annual goals aren’t good enough. Set quarterly goals, set them at impossible levels, and then figure out how to achieve them. Measure progress every quarter and reward outstanding achievement."


The Quantified Work Newsletter

Earlier this year, we launched this blog to advance discussion around a better way to work. Because we know everyone is busy, we’re also compiling interesting goal-setting, goal science, OKR, MBO, and employee engagement-related information that we see each month and distributing it in a newsletter with original ideas about how to make employees more successful through Quantified Work.

Our March newsletter delves deeper into “What’s after Quantified Self?”

If you’d like to keep up with trends and ideas involving better ways to work, we invite you to subscribe to our monthly newsletter at


Aspirational Goals

The Employee Engagement Problem: What Can You Do About It?

“Performance reviews are essentially meaningless. The really frustrating thing is that we are incredibly data-driven with our clients, but not at all with our employees.” 

— Senior vice president of a major marketing and communications company

Although Italian economist Pareto was measuring wealth in Italy in the early twentieth century, his 80/20 rule is often cited when there’s an employee engagement problem. How can you more appropriately engage employees if 20% (or even fewer) of the people in your enterprise are doing 80% of the work?

In October, Gallup reported that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. The 142-country study on the “State of the Global Workplace” found about one in eight workers—roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied—are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations. Even worse, the study reported that 24% are "actively disengaged," indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.

An epide…


How Will Technology Make Work More Engaging?

As panelists during February’s Talent Strategy Summit, Lynn Ware and I fielded questions about how innovations in process, technology, and measurement practices will help make work more engaging.

Lynn is an expert in employee engagement and survey methods. She has spent her career developing methods for engaging and retaining the "best and brightest." Although we had not met before the panel discussion, Lynn and I seemed 100% aligned.

In her opening remarks, Lynn expressed disagreement with an earlier presenter who claimed that employee surveys are basically a waste of time. She explained that employee surveys are neither useful nor useless. It’s how survey results are used to drive action that matters. We then explored how goals can impact the employee experience. Here are some examples:

When setting a company-level goal to improve engagement, the goal could be simply

"Increase engagement score by 4% in Q2." (Example 1)

Lynn and I suggested that a better goal will have nooks and crannies like an English Muffin w…


You Can Do Anything… If You Focus

My favorite business mentor recently told me, “You can do anything you want…” and I got really excited. This mentor knows me well and he has an amazing track record of being right about almost everything.

Then he finished his sentence with “…as long as you focus.”

At first, I was offended. I felt like this was his subtle way of pointing out that if (and when) I failed to accomplish great things at work, it would be due to my primary weakness, a lack of focus. Around the same time, I also watched the Star Wars series with my nine-year old son and every time I heard Obi-Wan Kenobi reminding Luke to “use the force,” I kept hearing “use the focus,” which kind of haunted me like a mantra after viewing the film.

Then slowly, but surely, I started “using the focus!” I started setting goals.

I wrote down my goals on a whiteboard each week and looked at them from time to time. I sent weekly email updates to my manager. Work seemed to be going really well, and I felt like I was getting the right stuff done. Whenever I got a feeling like I wasn’t sure what to do, I just looked at my whiteboard and either made a slight change or got back on track with my important work. My manager even complimented me on my ability to focus. Good things were h…

BetterWorks Quantified Work

So What Exactly is Quantified Work?

After our first post, we thought it might be helpful to define exactly what we mean by Quantified Work. So I’ll give the short answer: Quantified Work means data-driven approaches (input, feedback, visualization) to drive employee engagement and business performance.

Quantified Work begins with strategies for defining goals and metrics. It gives behavioral insight into achieving objectives through measurable key results. As I mentioned, it uses data-driven approaches—from input to feedback to visualization—to drive employee engagement and enhance business results. Quantified Work is a better way to work because it's where top-down alignment meets bottoms-up engagement.

Some large companies have advocated data-driven styles for years. “We are a very data-driven company, so H.R. has a history of making sure we have in-depth surveys of employees identifying how we can improve employee satisfaction and engagement over time,” Intel director Suzanne Fallender explained to Forbes.

Now smaller companies are following suit. Late last year, Don Peck covered big data and human resources for

Page 1 of 212