John Norman's Reviews > Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results

Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Apr 28, 2016

really liked it

An OKR is a statement of a qualitative, inspirational objective, followed by 1-3 numerical / quantitative key results. The idea was originated at Intel, and is used by some valley companies like Google. I don't think it's as popular on the east coast.

Ideally the key results should be a stretch. The author advises adding a number between 1 and 10 indicating the confidence one has for reaching the result (1 = no confidence). OKRs have a time span between some number of weeks and a quarter. If fully implemented, OKRs start with the executive team and each area underneath writes an OKR that contributes to the "higher" OKR. This process of division can go all the way down to the individual contributor. In the view of Marty Cagan, who contributes a chapter, OKRs are better-defined at the product team level rather than at the functional group (which might contribute staff to product teams).

For example, a product area might say:

Objective: Deliver a higher-quality product
* Reduce the number of bug reports by 75%. (5/10)
* Reduce the overall size of the CSS by 30%, as a proxy for visual consistency. (5/10)
* Raise NPS ratings above 8. (5/10)

OKRs are reviewed at the end of the period. It is critical that the key results be hard so that the team can learn to be comfortable with lagging the target, so as to set the ground for constant improvement.

The book is a decent description of the OKR process. It begins with a narrative of a company called TeaBee which is in chaos and finds that OKRs contribute to getting it on the path to success. This section seemed influenced by recent business book narratives like _The Five Dysfunctions of a Team_ or _The Phoenix Project_. For readers who consume information better through narrative, this seems like a decent way to convey the spirit of OKRs.

Then there follows a number of chapters, including contributed ones, on the nitty gritty. The content here is acceptable, but the book could use (1) many, many more examples. OKRs are hard to think up; an example "tree" of OKRs from the executive team down to individuals would be a great help; and (2) the section on OKRs and "performance reviews" is pretty light. (The short answer seems to be: You don't use OKRs for performance reviews. Since this is not stated very emphatically or at length, I fear that OKRs might be misunderstood as a proxy for individual performance. As I understand it, consensus suggests that OKRs can be a starting point for a discussion of performance, but not much more.)

So . . . good read. Can it be a blueprint for your own use of OKRs? I don't think there's quite enough here. The book also counsels that everyone fails with OKRs in their first cycle, and that it's better to start slowly with just one unit, so as to get a success. I think more could have been said about selling it to management, getting it going, and so forth.

A note to the publisher: Check the spelling of "Forword" on p. 1. Also, there is reference to a political consultant named "Carvil." You mean: Carville.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Radical Focus.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 27, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 28, 2016 – Shelved

No comments have been added yet.