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On goal-setting

Some things I noticed when watching this 2013 talk by Rick Klau on how Google used Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to set goals.

(Transcript here)

“It’s important to note that everyone’s OKRs, from Larry and Sergey on down, are public within the company … That means that not only can you see what they’re working on this quarter, but you can see what they were working on last quarter, the quarter before, and you can see their grades.

“If there is too much top-down dictation, it’s going to be hard to inspire a lot of those people to be working on things, because they’re going to be told what to do instead of telling you what they think is the best use of their time and talent.”

“Let me be clear: when I was reviewed each of the last five years, when I would sit down and write up my summary of what I did in the year prior, what I think that means for the company, whether I wanted to go up for promotion or not, at no point in time were my quarterly OKR bullets factored into that evaluation.”

“I always felt, and continue to feel, grades don’t matter except as directional indicators of how you’re doing. If you’re spending more than a few minutes at the end of a quarter summarizing your grades, you’re doing something wrong. The work should go into doing – and delivering on – the OKRs, not grading them.”

It’s important to explain to everyone in the company why you got the grade you did, and what you’re going to do differently in the quarter ahead. This calibration ends up being extremely useful for keeping everybody honest, ensuring the company is as transparent as it can be, but then also saying, okay, what did we learn?