The Silicon Valley investor who backed companies like Google, Amazon, Twitter, and AOL says the same goal-setting system successful business leaders use can also improve results elsewhere, from households and classrooms to Congress and the White House.
John Doerr is an engineer, venture capitalist, and chairman at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with a net worth of nearly $8 billion. Fortune sat down with Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, to discuss how effective companies get things done.
Doerr’s new book explains how OKRs — shorthand for “Objectives and Key Results” — can help leaders achieve their goals. Based on what he learned from Andy Grove at Intel and applied when working with Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google, he shares the practices that can help organizations improve transparency and accountability.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who uses OKRs in the management of his philanthropic Gates Foundation, recommends it “for anyone interested in becoming a better manager.”
While the book lays out a path to accomplishing goals, Doerr emphasized that it’s the intention behind objectives that he hopes OKRs can help people consider more carefully and more often.
“Many of us don’t set goals at all. Most people start with the goals — what I want to achieve and how — but the more fundamental question is why.”
He says there aren’t enough business leaders considering this question.
“We’re at a critical moment in the tech industry and the economy at large where people have lost confidence in our institutions,” he told Fortune in an interview in April. “A number of leaders are bad or unethical, but too often our institutions are not leading us to the right objectives.”
From Uber to Wells Fargo, Doerr says OKRs can help with this crisis of trust.
“Getting the goals wrong. Goals gone awry — all of this in pursuit of sales numbers as opposed to happy leadership,” he said.
But the lessons in Measure What Matters aren’t limited to business organizations. Doerr cites Orly Friedman and the work she is doing at Khan Academy’s school as a surprising example of leaders using OKRs. Every student there writes down their own objectives and key results, giving them a longterm learning plan.
“We can take OKRs beyond our businesses and see them successfully used in governments and schools,” he says.