Time is the only resource we can’t replenish yet treat so carelessly. This is evident by our tendency to measure progress by output and not outcome. We assume the more we get done the better. That in time, we’ll iterate our way to success. Yet we often fail to measure what works and what doesn’t, and adjust accordingly. What good is iteration if we’re not learning from it? For me, this is difference between working hard versus working smart, and prioritizing the urgent versus prioritizing the important.
Running a business is hard work. It’s working day in and day out on what’s urgent to keep the lights on. Growing a business is smart work. It’s measuring what works, planning accordingly, and staying focused on what’s important long term. Those that work smart, on what’s important, become the outliners.
We believe that if we stay busy enough, the truth won’t catch up with us.
All of this is easier said than done. When times get tough we fall back to where we’re comfortable, where we’ve had success before. We believe that if we stay busy enough, the truth won’t catch up with us. We do this, perhaps even knowingly, and it’s the wrong course of action. It’s a difficult behavior to break, although there is a way.
What we need is a process that helps us focus on what we truly need to do. A process that reminds us what’s important, why it’s important, and keeps us on track even when the urgent appears. In all of my efforts, the best process I’ve found to do so is known as Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs.
Defining your Objectives and Key Results includes setting a bold, qualitative objective and three quantitative results that let you know when you’ve hit your Objective each quarter. These OKRs are what you really need to push and improve. They’re the undertakings that allow you to grow the business in addition to running it.
Fortunately, Christina Wodtke has written an excellent book, Radical Focus, covering all you need to know about achieving your most important goals with OKRs. She gets to the heart of how to set Objectives, pick Key Results, and the process by which you pay attention to and measure progress against your OKRs.
It’s a fantastic book, one of the best I read in 2016. If you’re interested achieving the best possible results rather than the most probable, or if you’re looking to measure progress by outcome and not output, I highly recommend looking into OKRs and picking up a copy of Radical Focus.