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📚📊 Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Not a Book Report

I enjoy reflecting on the movies, TV, books and other media that I consume. I’m notoriously sentimental. This series documents the books that I read. These aren’t reviews or recommendations. Just a list. For me. Mostly so that I can page through what I read, where I was, and when.

Why did I read it?

Years ago, I spent about five years working for various groups within Joe Liemandt’s ESW Capital and Trilogy Software organization - a kind of private equity firm obsessed with making software companies more efficient. We sought inspiration from manufacturing and assembly lines for managing traditionally “services” work - something Andy Grove at Intel thrived doing.

I first picked up Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters, back then. His treatise on “objectives and key results” captured a focus we had at the time around measuring ourselves. We adopted the principles - down to the SaaS applications we deployed that would manage OKRs (until we eventually built some of the functionality into our own productivity software).

I’m headed back to Austin this week for 2024 planning in my current role. An SVP suggested the crew read it prior to the meeting and I used it as a chance to revisit the book. What started as an 18 hour LIS->EWR->AUS agenda became a 24 hour nightmare of LIS->EWR->DEN->AUS, giving me a lot of time to somewhat leisurely reread the thing.

What is it?

Category Value
Title Measure What Matters
Author John Doerr
Year Published 2017
Format Kindle
Pages 320
ISBN 0525536221

How did I read it?

Category Value
Date Started September 10, 2023
Date Finished September 11, 2023
Places Read Lisbon, United 65

Notes - No Spoilers

  • Doerr calls out Grove’s interest in Henry Ford’s manufacturing, something we shared at my old firm to the point that I once visited the original Ford plant in Michigan on a personal trip in Detroit.
  • I always love how their Motorola competition campaign also meant “Not one Intel product was modified for Crush. But Grove and his executive team altered the terms of engagement.”
  • I might be lucky, but Doerr calls out how often OKRs are a “shock” to companies. I’ve never seen that to be true. What shocks companies is the support framework around OKRs - specifically accountability.
  • I hate the YouTube minutes watched story. I hate that they are guided by optimizing for a ten-minute entertainment video instead of a one-minute informational video, even if humans work that way. I get it, but I hate it so much and avoid YouTube like the plague because of it.
  • I still like “brutal transparency without judgment” and the accountability emphasis - I’ve never seen anywhere execute on it like ESW.
  • Blink and you’ll miss it, but there is an actual BlueJeans shout out in the book - a product inconveniently ahead of its time and victim to the bundle. I remember being amazed by it until I forgot it existed when everyone started using Teams and Google Meet in bundles.
  • The book is still too long by about 80 pages, but I do enjoy the case studies.

Published Sep 11, 2023

Austinite in Lisbon. VP of Product at Cloudflare.