Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objective and Key Results

Author: Christina R. Wodtke

This book shows a method for how you can organise your work and focus you attention to what is important. This is done with:
Objective & Key Results = OKRs
These are short statements of your goals and how to measure that you have achieved them. The book club was divided about this book, mainly because it’s unclear if and how this method can be used in scientific work. To find out, some of us will try. Here’s what we took with us from the book.
Most of us have problems getting things done. The author lays out five reasons why:
  1. We haven’t prioritised our goals. Many goals seem equally important, but we haven’t ranked them.
  2. We haven’t communicated the goal properly. Leaders play a big role to get it across.
  3. We don’t have a plan to get things done. Willpower is not enough. You need a system to keep track of your work. A system that you can lean on when you get tired.
  4. We haven’t made time for what matters. Urgent matters get done whether they are important or not because we feel time pressured. To get away from this, we must set aside time to work on what is important but not urgent. Eisenhower: “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important”.
  5. We give up instead of iterate. If you fail, learn what mistakes you made and try again.
To help overcome these problems, the author argues for OKRs. These can be on the level of teams and individuals.
Objective (‘O’):  This should answer the Why: why do you do this? What motivates you? The objective should therefore be significant (for you!), concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational. Here are a few examples. Universal access to anti-HIV drugs (Bono), build the best web browser (Google),  global eradication of malaria by 2040 (Bill Gates), and make icelab.se the number one site for interdisciplinary research (IceLab).
Key Results (‘KR’): These answer the How: how do we meet our objectives and how do we measure that we have achieved them? KRs should be time-bound, aggressive yet realistic, and measurable. KRs are dichotomous: either you met the them or you didn’t. For example
   O: build the best web browser.
   KR: 20 million users.
   O: make icelab.se the number one site for interdisciplinary research.
   KR1: increase our web traffic by X %.
   KR2: invite 3 guest bloggers over the coming three months.
   KR3: Advertise icelab.se at three university events.
For additional resources for OKRs, visit www.whatmatters.com where John Doerr, one of OKR’s inventors, has a lot of material including a 10 min TED talk.

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