Most people love crossing something off their to-do list, but not everyone knows how to make the right list. KPIs, OKRs, the 80/20 rule, Kanban boards...there are plenty of articles on the internet that teach you how to get more done. The key here will be not necessarily doing more tasks, but doing the right tasks. I'll share insights from some of my favorite books and articles by top executives from successful Silicon Valley startups to Bono - that you can use to be more effective in any part of your life.
1. Measure What Matters
With more people working from home, the 40 hour work week is becoming obsolete. Measure What Matters is a hugely important book, in my opinion, with the practical advice that what you accomplish matters more than how long, or hard, you work. Which should be obvious right? This of course doesn't apply to all jobs, but its always beneficial to know where you are headed, how you're going to get there, and why you're going there in the first place. The next time you find yourself wondering what everyone at your company is doing all day, consider a frame work that offers them purpose, support, and focuses on what they achieve.
2. Use OKRs - Objectives & Key Results
OKRs are an important tool used by Google, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and many other innovative people making a real impact on the world. Originally used by Andy Grove at Intel, and tweaked by John Doer at Google, he explains the process in detail in Measure What Matters. They work for large corporations, entertainers, non-profits, or your next big personal goal. OKR stands for objectives and key results. The most beneficial aspect of using the OKR format is that it builds a scaffold to foster communication horizontally with teams and personal tasks, as well as vertically throughout the company - making this simple goal setting structure incredibly effective.
Your objective should be an ambitious and qualitative goal the team, or company, can achieve in a given amount of time. When developing OKRs for a company, you'll start with a big company-wide objective aligned with your company mission. Each key results for this company objective informs your next level of team-based OKRs down the line.
The key results are the roadmap for how to get there. Key Results are the specific, measurable milestones by which you gauge your success. These results should be difficult to achieve, but not impossible. The most important aspect of the OKR is keeping everyone in the company on the same page. No matter what a staff member's job is, you know, and they know, their daily tasks are designed to support the company goal.
Modern OKR systems are based on the following important principles to be effective:
Simplicity -set 1-2 objectives at each level of the company with 3-5 key results each, informing the next level of objectives
Measurable/Adjustable - Keep using your key results to measure you progress, and adjust your OKR as needed
Communication/Accountability - Your OKRs should be transparent and clearly communicated to everyone in the company
Depending on the size of your company, or your goal setting purpose, you'll want to use the following framework as you begin brainstorming your OKRs
Set OKRs for the whole company first, then teams, and then individuals.
The Key Results for your company objective each address a team objective. Your Key Results for each team objective creates a task for personal OKRs your staff completes weekly and daily.
Set and evaluate/update OKRs as often as needed to stay on track.
Let's look at an example!
In this example, Key Result #1 would be a focus for your digital marketing or design team OKR. Their objective could be to research, analyze & understand what our users and non-users really think of your
product. A Key Result for that team might be to conduct 20 web-based user testing sessions on new and old users. This gives your staff members on that team a tangible, focused task to complete over the week or month that everyone knows will serve the team and company objectives.
Once you've completed your company OKR, work with your team leaders in each department to separate those Key Results into team objectives. The team leaders will work within their teams to establish Key Results for those objectives. Finally, team leads will work with each team member to create their personal OKRs. There you have it, top down and across the board, everyone working to support the company objective and further your mission.
Remember to keep your OKRs agile. Meet with your teams and make adjustments to your plan as needed - and communicate changes throughout the company.
Consider Human Nature
Trillion Dollar Coach is another wonderful business book worth mentioning when it comes to achieving goals and doing meaningful work. Being a former athlete and coach, my favorite part of Trillion Dollar Coach is that it's written about former football coach turned beloved Silicon Valley mentor, Bill Campbell. With a background in coaching sports, Bill understands people, and that motivation is driven by emotion. Using OKRs gives each person in the company purpose, and everyone knows they're an important part of the same goal. If you're looking for effective leadership strategies for implementing OKRs and achieving operational excellence, this book has everything you need.
One of my favorite goal setting anecdotes that I'll never forget is a story about John F. Kennedy. He created a simple, concrete goal for the nation during his presidency:
“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
Kennedy was so fixated on this mission, he made a visit to the NASA space center for a tour. While wandering around the building, the President saw a janitor sweeping a hallway and stopped to ask what he was doing. The man responded, "Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon." The objective for the nation gave every person a sense of purpose - they were contributing to something bigger than themselves. This created motivation to help achieve the ambitious objective, even if it meant doing your part to keep a facility clean.
The company objective is inevitably the most important part of the OKR. If anyone in the company can't recite it at the drop of a hat, then it's either too complicated, or not being communicated effectively. Remember to begin with your mission, and why you're setting these goals and objectives in the first place. Check in with your staff often, and support them in achieving their key results. And as Bill Campbell so often did, celebrate the wins - big and small - and learn from the losses.
I hope you found this helpful, and please reach out with any questions. I encourage you to read Measure What Matters and Trillion Dollar Coach. They are full of tangible advice and invaluable leadership guidance you can implement immediately to unite your teams, and move your company forward. Sign up for my mailing list on my contact page to stay informed about branding, web design, business and more.