The end of the year presents each of us with a fundamental choice. Will you let life happen to you? Or will you lean in to help shape your experience? Writing a set of personal OKRs transforms you from simply being a character in the unfolding story of your life to also being the author of it.
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure” is a quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, arguably the most influential management consultant and author. Drucker was described by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management.” One of his most enduring contributions was the concept of Management by Objectives or MBOs, which formalized the practice of business goal setting and measurement. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, evolved the MBO into Objectives and Key Results or OKRs – a process of committing to a specific business objective and measurable results that serve as evidence that the objective has been achieved. John Doerr, who worked for Grove and later became a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, introduced OKRs to Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who credited the company’s meteoric early growth to the use of OKRs. Today, many of the world’s most successful companies employ a version of OKRs to manage their fast-growing businesses.
Very few leaders would think of managing their businesses without the use of some goal setting and measurement framework. Yet, most people are content to lead their own lives with just a vague sense of what they hope to accomplish and almost no process for measuring outcomes. The end of the year presents each of us with a fundamental choice. Will you let life happen to you? Or will you lean in to help shape your experience? Writing a set of personal OKRs transforms you from simply being a character in the unfolding story of your life to also being the author of it.
While the results are profound, the exercise of writing personal OKRs is relatively simple. First, choose a handful of categories. For me, I typically focus on the following: work, family, friends, health, and personal. For each category, write an overall Objective. For each Objective, identify three or more Key Results. For example, your Objective for Health may be to significantly improve your physical and mental well-being. One of your Key Results may be to sleep an average of 7 ½ hours each night. With today’s technology, this is a Key Result that you can actually measure.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge a paradox in all of this. A life well lived is not just about planning and continuous effort. It is about the spontaneous grace of allowing life to unfold the way it does. As with all polarities, the trick is to hold both opposites as being true simultaneously. The question I plan to ask myself as the year comes to an end is thus, “How do I be intentional about the life I want to lead this coming year, while also staying open to the natural occurring of life?”
I hope you find the time and space to ask the same question, and I trust that you will have the wisdom to discern the nuance embedded in it. Most importantly, I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous start to the new year.
1. It’s hard to deny Elon Musk’s considerable impact and no big surprise to see him as Time magazine’s 2021 Person of the Year.
2. Congratulations to the women in the Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women 2021. For only the third time in the eighteen years of compiling the list, there is a new number one.
3. This story in the SF Chronicle about homelessness is a great example of high-quality local journalism. It’s also an in-depth look into a complex problem that seems to evade straightforward solutions.