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VC pioneer John Doerr extends his management tools to address the climate crisis

November 8, 2021, 10:46 AM UTC

Good morning.

Venture capital pioneer John Doerr has made it a late-life mission to evangelize OKRs—Objectives and Key Results—as an effective tool for measuring and managing companies. (He describes why here.) Tomorrow, as the Glasgow climate conference enters week two, he’s publishing a new book laying out OKRs for the climate crisis. It’s a helpful exercise, making the unimaginable task of transforming the world economy to net zero by 2050 more imaginable. 

Taking a lesson from Roosevelt’s pencil notes on the plan for winning World War II, he breaks his climate plan into ten objectives:

1. Electrify transportation
2. Decarbonize the grid
3. Fix food
4. Protect nature
5. Clean up industry
6. Remove carbon

And you accelerate the first six using:

7. Policy & politics
8. Movements
9. Innovation
10. Investment

Behind each objective are a series of measurable key results. They include some daunting challenges. “Fix food,” for instance, embodies a revolution in and of itself. “Investment” needs to total $1.7 trillion a year. And there is a role for everyone; if you can’t help with 1-6, you can certainly take part in 7 and 8.

Why did he do it? I spoke with Doerr about that yesterday:

“This started with me 15 years ago from Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’  There was an inconvenient youth, my daughter, who said: “Dad, I’m scared and I’m angry. Your generation created this problem. You better fix it.”

I asked how OKRs can work in a case where there is no clear leadership, no governance structure, no one in a position to hold everyone accountable.

“You’ve got to get really clear about the objective and how you are going to measure success. Each is different, but each of these 10 big objectives, in the Andy Grove tradition, has highly specific, measurable, time-bound key results… Our backs are against the wall. We need to do this.”

Doerr said he has reason to be hopeful, citing recent actions by Amazon and Walmart to impose change on their supply chains. What strikes me these days is how many companies are stepping up to play their part. Last week, for instance, I spoke with Jeff Simmons, CEO of Elanco Animal Health, who is working on a product that can reduce methane emissions from cattle by 10%, and another that can capture the gases from decaying manure and turn it into energy (Objectives #3 and #9). Later in the week, I spoke with Mark Newman, CEO of Chemours, who is working on improving ion-exchange membranes that are critical to the development of cost-effective fuel cells (Objectives #1 and #9). 

Add all the activity up, and you can start to envision the end goal. We may not be moving fast enough, but we are moving.

More news below. And apologies to General Catalyst’s Ken Chenault for adding an extra “n” to his name.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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