On Selecting A Lawyer

by Cameron Brain


Having a good lawyer is essential to the success of any young company, especially startups. Problem is, I've seen too many young companies get sucked into thinking that they need a big, name-brand firm. You know, the firm that handled that big acquisition, public offering or whatever. In reality, hiring one of these firms can be a serious setback for a budding venture. Here's why:

  • You're going to end up working with an associate, a couple years out of law school; the partner sells you, the associate works with, just like any other agency/consultancy
  • No matter who's doing your work, you're going to get charged up the butt; I recently saw a bill from a mid-tier firm charging $700/hr for basic work done by an associate!
  • Just because it's a name-brand firm, doesn't mean the work quality will be good; twice in the last year I've seen shoddy work and poor service from the Valley's most storied law firm (you fill in the blank)
  • Things will always take longer than they need to, and if you want to speed them up it's going to cost you more; it's pay-to-play
  • Bigger firms and teams aren't usually solution-oriented; I can't recall working with a name-brand firm that really understood our business and helped us find solutions to our problems 
  • To the above point, there's a chance that their lack of solutions, slow pace, penchant for wordy documents, etc., may actually put an important deal of yours at risk (time is the killer of all deals!)
  • Chances are greater than not that they will overcharge you; be sure to review all their bills, line by line
  • Lawyers don't source deals for you; never have I seen an key deal/acquisition/partnership/etc. sourced from a lawyer, however that won't stop them from tempting you with this possibility

Here's my point: big firms are not oriented to work with small companies.  Fundamentally, big firms are big firms because 1) they need a large, multidisciplinary teams to represent big clients with complex (big) deals and/or 2) they're simply interested in having as many revenue-generating clients as possible, which of course has an inverse relation to quality.

Your best bet is to find a small firm or sole practitioner that has experience working with companies like yours. You'll receive better counsel, spend less, get more done more quickly, and look good in the eyes of whomever you're dealing with (investors/partners/acquirer/etc.). Happy to share some recommendations if you need; just send me an email.


Ethical integrity of a profession

by Cameron Brain


The ethical integrity of a profession rests not on science or any technical subject, but on trust. In any serious profession, just as in any stable society, furthermore, this trust relies on a fair and perspicuous system of punishment and rewards.
— Matthew Stewart

Some rules for hiring in a startup

by Cameron Brain


Since 2004 I've hired around 60 people for a variety of roles in two software startups (I included a complete list at the bottom of this post). Some hires turned out amazing while others did not. Considering how critical people are to building a company, I wanted to put down my current framework for hiring.

Finding the best people

When I'm looking to hire someone, I have one primary goal: I want to hire the best person possible. By best I mostly mean someone who is going to progress our organization forward the most. The more they do that, the more critical a member of our team they'll be. How do we find these people and avoid the others? Below are my thoughts.

  1. Are they a missionary or mercenary? At the highest level, we always want to hire missionaries. John Doerr gave a talk at Stanford in 2005 about the difference between missionaries and mercenaries (I've included the video at the end of this post). Even when you're in a startup and have scant resources, there are people out there who want to suck you dry. Paying someone a high salary, granting lots of equity, or including a rich benefits package will not make someone more effective at their job. To the contrary, the folks who push for that up front probably aren't going to work out. Why? Because they're about themselves and a startup is about a shared cause d'etre. Stay away from the mercenaries. They promise, and take, and rarely deliver.
  2. Do they have previous startup experience? Another simple, gating factor for me is if the person has previous startup experience. In my opinion there are three types of people in the startup world: those who have founded a startup, those who have worked for a startup, and those who have done neither. I really want people in those first two categories and generally steer clear of those in the latter. Startups are crazy places. Things don't always make sense; you need to simultaneously make forward progress and remain open to making course corrections, sometimes big ones. People who haven't worked in a startup are not usually comfortable in this environment. 
  3. Are they familiar with your space? There's a value to involving someone who is familiar with your market. Maybe they worked on a similar product, sold to the same people you're trying to sell to, marketed to a similar audience, or developed partnerships with like players. Having a new hire producing results as quickly as possible is always one of my biggest goals. Hiring someone who's already familiar with the territory gets them to that point more quickly.
  4. Has someone on your team previously worked with them? I pay more attention to people who have worked with someone on our team. I think the challenge is to separate those who are looking for an "in" through a personal connection (i.e., they need a job) from those who can stand on their own. Further, I've learned to place a higher value on a personal connection if it's coming from someone on our team who I already think is stellar. Chances are, they're not going to want to work with someone who isn't.
  5. Are they smart and thorough? Both these items are critical in my opinion. To the first quality, I want to hire the absolute smartest people I can find, no matter the role. That could be a head of engineering, a sales lead, a freelance designer, or a kid just out of college with no prior experience. Smart people can figure things out, and at the end of the day that's a huge reason why you're hiring someone - you're certainly not hiring them to create more work for you! But, of course intelligence doesn't count for everything. That's where thoroughness comes in. Thoroughness in my opinion means owning something. When people own stuff, they complete it to a better degree. I want to look at someone's work and be surprised. I don't want to think "well, I could have probably done a better job".
  6. What do your team members think? Bad things have happened when I or my co-founder and I have unilaterally made a hiring decision. It just doesn't make sense to do so. You're hiring someone who's going to be a member of your team. Don't you think at least some of your team members should have a say? Culture and trust are two big factors in determining the effectiveness of a team. Hiring someone without involving others does a couple things. First, it erodes trust. You're saying "I'm going to make decisions that affect all of us without involving you". Second, it puts your culture at risk. What if that person doesn't mesh, you judged them wrong? In my experience only good has come from involving our team in the vetting process.
  7. What other projects/commitments are they involved with? Especially if you're hiring someone part time or for a trial period as discussed below, find out what else they're working on. Do they have other commitments? If so, how ridged are they and what are the particulars: how many hours per week, when does it end, who's involved, what's their role, etc. As we all know, context switching is hard; it means the quality of that person's work is going to be less, that its going to take them longer to get up and running, and that they may not be able to develop momentum of their own. No matter how good they appear, I don't want to hire someone who isn't going to be able to give my team and project the hours we need.
  8. Find out what they really want to do. So important and often overlooked. Before you can ask this question of the potential hire, you need to clearly understand what you want of them. Why are you hiring this person? Do you have a specific role that you want to fill? If what you have in mind doesn't match up with what they have in mind, it'll be like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Sometimes coming at this sideways is the best approach: ask the person how they see themselves at your organization, what do they really want to do, especially looking forward. Usually people will be pretty straight forward with what they're looking to do.

Some additional thoughts

The above points have helped me find great people who have developed into valuable members of our team. However, sometimes that hasn't happened and it wouldn't be a startup if we didn't have to change course once in a while. The three points below are some additional control factors I like to have in place for after I've made the decision to hire. Working off the premise that you're only really going to be able to understand if someone is a good fit after you've started working with them, I always want to leave some exits open. 

  • Don't belabor the process - There's a limit to the amount of time I spend doing background on people. There's only so much you can understand about someone without having worked with them. If you abide by the two points below - building in a trial period and not being afraid to let someone go if they're not working out - there's no reason not to take a chance. As with any opportunity, time is always a factor; you may miss your chance if you don't act.
  • Build in a trial period - As a continuation on the above point, I rarely if ever hire someone full time, right at the start. You want to make sure this person is going be a good fit and vice versa. Even after going through all the filters listed above, I still assume that I don't actually know if someone is going to work out until their boots are on the ground. Some folks can be hard to trial with - e.g., sales people, executives - however I still do my best to involve them as much as possible before brining them on full time. 
  • Don't be afraid to let someone go - When someone isn't working out, for whatever the reason, my experience is that they don't get better. Further, giving them time (which is usually just an excuse for you not wanting to take action) can have a deleterious effect on the rest of your team. Take action quickly, for your sake and theirs. There is always someone better to be found!

Conclusions

Hopefully you've found at least a few points in here to be of use. They're what I've learned over 10 years, two software companies, and a good number of blunders. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say that to date, maybe 25% of the people I've hired I'd be interested in working with again. Maybe 15% have been truly great. How to increase those percentages is something I'm constantly thinking about.

Another, purely selfish reason I'm interested in improving my ability to hire great people: I love working with them. Great people make everything worthwhile. In a startup you will spend more waking hours with your team than you will with your significant other/family. I want to really enjoy working with my team, to be confident in their abilities, to have strong rapport and trust, and all the rest. If that's not there we're not going to do our best work. 

From memory, the folks I've hired include co-founders, designers, business development managers, board members, advisors, investors, lead sales reps, front-end developers, back-end developers, assistants, patent attorneys, business attorneys, interns, pr reps, mobile developers, mobile designers, communications designers, heads of marketing, inside sales reps, copywriters, heads of finance, and seos.

John Doerr on missionaries vs mercenaries


Annette Moser-Wellman

by Cameron Brain


Annette Moser-Wellman

Last month a mentor of mine, Annette Moser-Wellman passed away from complications associated with a rare type of tumor that had developed behind her heart.

Anette and I had been introduced a number of years ago, when I was living in NY, running my first software company. At the time, Annette was a visiting fellow at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business and had asked to interview me for a paper she was authoring on the competencies of news organizations. The first time we connected was over the phone. Sometime later we met for coffee back on Bainbridge Island, where our families live. Graciously, she offered to make herself available for future conversations, to be a resource for me in my own career.

From then on we'd usually meet in person, once or twice a year, always at Bainbridge Bakers, earlier in the morning, right after she was getting out of the gym. I always enjoyed our conversations. We never really talked about business stuff, which was almost always the topic of conversation with my male mentors. With Annette, our conversations were personal: how was I developing, was I being challenged, what really made me happy, what was I actually good at, where did I want to go. Annette asked hard questions, which I rarely had a quick answer to. Even though it could be months between our conversations, she always gave me more than enough to think about.

I will miss Annette a great deal; she was a remarkable, thoughtful woman. Her approach to leadership, business, and life was refreshing and something that I will continue to apply to my own life and in my dealings with others. My thoughts are with her husband and two daughters.

Annette's full obituary, published in the Seattle Times on October 27, 2013 can be found here.


Neil Gaiman on the future of publishing: be dandelions!

by Cameron Brain


We live in a world in which anyone can publish anything, in which there’s too much information. It’s a world in which we no longer rely in gate keepers, as we once did. We rely on guides and recommenders to point us to what’s good. We rely on luck. We rely on becoming dandelions.
— Neil Gaiman

Here's the original article about Neil's dendelion's comment, written by Cory Doctorow from BoingBoing.net.


Far better it is to dare mighty things

by Cameron Brain


My brother passed along this Theodore Roosevelt quote after hearing it from Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of the JPL (Mars Curiosity Mission) during a talk at Harvard's GSD.

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." –Theodore Roosevelt

Charles also mentioned during his talk that the JPL is developing a nuclear-heated drill head to bore into the icy moon of Titan in order to explore the vast oceans beneath the crust. Dare mighty things…


My Getting Things Done System

by Cameron Brain


Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again! Time for personal reflection, review, resolutions, planning, and maybe even some organization. For me, that means deciding what objectives I’m going to focus on over the next year, putting together high-level plans around those objectives, and developing/reviewing my system and routine for how I’m going to do the work.

For the last couple years I’ve employed David Allen’s Getting Things Done system for tracking and prioritizing all the stuff I need to do. Perhaps like you, I've always been suspect of "systems" – more than anything, they're usually unactionable. That said, I've found the GTD system to be fantastic. It's simple, didn't take more than a couple days to learn and implement, and it's genuinely helped me become better organized, less stressed, more creative, and more efficient at my work. 

I'd like to share my current GTD system with you: the tools I use, my daily and weekly routines, and the general organization framework I employ. I especially recommend this post for anyone who uses or is thinking about using the Things app (a productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad). Employing GTD and Things as the primary organizational system and solution in my life produced the single biggest productivity gain I've had in the last couple years. 

GTD – A Quick Review

As a quick refresher, the Getting Things Done system is about two objectives: 1) helping you capture everything you need to get done – now, later, someday, big, little, or in between – into a logical and trusted system outside your head and off your mind and 2) disciplining yourself to make front-end decisions about all the inputs you let into your life so that you will always have a plan for “next action” that you can do or renegotiate at any moment.

If you’d like to learn more about the GTD system, I recommend buying David’s book (it’s a quick read, couple days tops) and checking out his site, davidco.com.  From here on out, I’m assuming you have at least a basic knowledge of GTD, its principals, and implementation practices.

Showing how "stuff" (anything you need to do) get's filed within the GTD system. Pulled from the GTD book. 

The Tools – Few And Simple

Things for Mac, iPhone, iPad – My master filing system. Things for Mac, iPhone, and iPad is the GTD app. It’s elegant, simple, and can be configured to support any GTD implementation you can come up with. Further, it's available for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and will automatically sync your data across multiple installs. In short, it is hands-down the best solution out there to serve as the centerpiece of your GTD implementation.

Notebook and notecards – For when I’m not in front of a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. There are times when I don’t have any of these devices with me or when I just prefer to use pen and paper. I always carry a small notebook and a number of blank 3x5 index cards with me wherever I go, for whenever an idea hits me).

Filing box – For mail, bills, and other papers. I would really prefer not to get any mail, but as Kramer found out, that’s impossible. For physical items (bills, mail, letters, tickets, records, clippings, etc.) I use a small, portable filing box. Every piece of paper I accumulate goes into an inbox folder placed at the front of the box, which I go through during my weekly review (more on this below).

File System – Projects and Areas

Projects Groups of tasks. A project is a container for a set of tasks; a chain of stuff that needs to be performed to get to the end goal. Just as I create tasks for anything I need to do, I also create projects for anything I'd like/need to do. Sometimes I create a project because I know I want to do something, but I don't yet know what the tasks will be. Other times I'll create a project while doing my daily or weekly review because I realize a bunch of tasks should/could be grouped together. Here are my basic rules with projects:

  • Project list should include all projects you want/need to do
  • Keep the project list ordered based on priority
  • Any project that's not due this week is marked as inactive
  • Sacred calendar rule applies to project due dates (i.e., don't assign a date unless it has to be done by then)
  • Review project list (inactive and active) during the weekly review

AreasDistinct tasks. During my daily review (detailed below), everything starts out in the inbox, then gets filed into a project or  area. Next, when I'm reviewing each area, I'll decide if each task should be trashed, scheduled, someday'd, today'd, delegated, or left to be dealt with next. From a filing system standpoint, my goal from the beginning has been to try and have as few areas as possible. As you'll see below, with the exception of For Blog, the areas I'm using are the basic set prescribed in the GTD book:

  • Read/Review
  • Agendas
  • At Home
  • At Office
  • At Computer
  • Errands
  • Calls
  • For Blog

Daily Process – First Thing Each Morning

Recording my tasksAll day, every day. Everything (as in 100%) goes into my Things inbox. I may enter a task from my phone, or when I’m at my computer, or in my notebook; no matter where/when I’m entering a task, it will eventually (by end of day) end up in the Inbox folder of my Things app.

Review the InboxEach morning, ~5min. Each morning, after making my first cup of coffee but before doing anything else, I review my inbox. The goal of this review is to get the inbox to zero – to have all the tasks filed into the appropriate project or area. That’s it.

Review Projects and AreasEach morning, ~10min. After getting my inbox to zero, I turn my attention to projects and areas. The goal here is to review everything marked as next (I ignore stuff already filed as someday or scheduled during my daily review) and determine if it should be left as next, filed as a someday, scheduled, or trashed. Once that’s done, I like to do a final sweep and prioritize the items still marked as next based on the order in which they need to be done (just a simple stack rank).

Prioritize TodayEach morning, ~5min. The final step in my morning routine is to prioritize what I’m going to be working on that day. Since I’ve already defined the next steps for everything I’m working on, choosing what gets done today is more a matter of deciding how much I think I’ll be able to handle that day (also taking into account hard tasks such as scheduled events, deadlines, etc.).

In terms of prioritization and assuming my morning isn’t filled with meetings or deadlines, I like to put the biggest items on the list at the top (the tasks that require the most thought and time). The morning is when I’m fresh, have energy, and can generally avoid distractions. The afternoon – when I'm tired and looking to be done – is when I’ll hit the smaller, easier items.

Weekly Process – Every Sunday Morning

Defining my weekly OKRs Sunday morning, ~30min. Sunday mornings are when I go through everything. For me, this process starts with defining my weekly Objectives and Key Results. Generally speaking, I’ll end up with upwards of 18 key results from my OKRs, each of which I’ll turn into a project in Things. I’ll then spend a minute or two brainstorming tasks into each of these projects (what's the chain of stuff I need to do to achieve the key result).

This portion of my Sunday routine is really the only time of the week when I’m thinking about my larger objectives – things I or my teams are trying to complete over the month, quarter, or year. Combining my OKRs with GTD during this review ensures I’ll have defined the next steps I need to hit on any day of the upcoming week, regardless how crazy things get.

Reviewing everything else Sunday morning, ~30min. Aside from putting down my OKRs and creating projects for the key results, I also do a complete review of my GTD system. This weekly review follows the same flow as my morning routine with a couple of exceptions:

  • I review all my tasks, including those marked as someday or scheduled
  • I review all my active and inactive projects
  • I review the physical items in my filing box inbox and either create tasks for them or trash them

As espoused in the GTD book, one of the important factors in successfully implementing GTD is a regular, complete review. By the time I’m done with my Sunday review I've checked up on everything. If I don’t get that holistic picture, my stress will increase and I’ll lose confidence in the system.

Things That Keep Me Going

Staying focused on the next step. If there’s one thing I want to be able to do better in my life, it's to realize more of my ideas. This has always been the case for me and it’s probably the case for you, too. There's so much stuff I want to do! I want to start a pickle company, I want to write a sci-fi/fantasy novel, I’d like to start a school. Same thing goes for my personal life. I’d like to live in another big city, I’d like to have a family, I’d like to sail around the world, I'd like to become more involved with my community.

“There are only two problems in life: (1) you know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it; and/or (2) you don’t know what you want.” –Steven Snyder

From what I’ve experienced, the problem isn’t that there’s never enough time, or that I’ve got too many projects on my list. The failing point is almost always that each of these goals require lots and lots of steps from start to finish, and the second I start losing track of what the next step should be, things fall apart. I become overwhelmed and no progress is made. Remembering that no matter how large or complex a project is, that it's only ever about that next step is critical to keeping me motivated and focused.

Being OK with saying NO. I over commit all the time and I don’t even think of myself as someone who does that. I’m not that kind of guy! Regardless, I still do it. As I’ve looked back over the past year, over committing myself to too many things was one of the main reasons why I didn't make the progress I wanted to on a number of key projects.

The other thing I’ve learned is that saying no is very much about personal standards and principles. Do I want to do more, mediocre work, or less, quality work? Am I willing to let people down because I couldn't give them or their projects the attention they needed, or do I value being able to deliver on the promised date?

Startups are notorious for being environments in which people say yes far more than they should. A number of years ago, Fred Wilson over at Union Square wrote a great piece on saying no, everyday. In a startup, everything needs to be done, and it needed to be done yesterday, and tomorrow there’s going to be more, everyone is freaking out, and no one is thinking. Been there many a time. I for one am going to be saying no a lot more this upcoming year, to the benefit of my companies, my teams, and everyone else involved with something I'm doing.

Keeping up with the regimen. It’s so easy not to do something. Unfortunately, when it comes to stuff you’re responsible for, little to nothing good happens when you do nothing. In my opinion, there are two keys to successfully GTD’ing your life: 1) defining what your system is going to be (your organizational structure, your review cycles, etc.) and 2) sticking to it day in and day out.

While and important step, defining the system is relatively easy. The GTD book outlines the basic framework and you fill in the blanks. Sticking to your system all day every day is where the rubber hits the road. I think the value of GTD becomes self-evident after a week or two, however I think in order to really embed it in your life, you need to fully commit to it for a year and review your entire system (the methodology, schedule, etc.) on a quarterly or yearly basis.



Primer on Objectives and Key Results (OKR) management system

by Cameron Brain


About a year and a half ago my co-founder and I decided to employ a system called Objectives and Key Results to set and track goals within our company. Creating plans and tracking results is something that's generally lacking in the startup world, especially with very early stage companies (pre-venture/positive cash flow). Big business planning methodologies (across years, dividing resources, etc.) really aren't relevant, and as a result most new companies (if you're like the ones I've started or worked with) end up doing nothing. What's needed is an agile system for planning and measuring.

The general architecture of what eventually became the Objectives and Key Results system was developed by Andrew Grove, the former President of Intel and author of High Output Management. It was later popularized (early 2000's) in the tech world by John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins who encouraged his companies (Google and Zynga) to employ it as their planning and tracking system. These days Mark Pincus, the founder and CEO of Zynga is the most vocal proponent of the OKR system (you'll find reference to OKRs in virtually every one of his earnings calls since they've gone public).

However and ever since we've started employing OKRs within our own company, I've continually come up empty handed in my search for information on the subject. Perhaps John Doerr and Mark Pincus have some secret manual, but there's little public information to be had on how to implement OKRs effectively. Having used the OKR system in our company for the past year and a half and having worked with others to implement the system in their companies, I'd like to share some of our experiences. , I believe the OKRs to be a solid and simple system to help you and/or your team to achieve great things. What's needed is a data and elucidation.

This is the first of a number of posts I plan to do on the topic of OKRs. My goal is to share how we've implemented them, the specifics of our process, what's worked, what hasn't, and the results we've been able to produce. This first post is an attempt to outline the high level benefits and principals associated with the OKR system. Future posts will get into more specifics.

HOW OKRS WORK

  • Establish "long term" objectives

As you probably well know, time scale is different in a startup. Startups often require change and adjustment on a (very) frequent basis; few are the successful companies that, years later are still doing the same thing they set out to do on day one. As such, building a business in a rapidly changing environment means that it's pretty much impossible to create an actionable plan that spans more than a few months.  

But, just because it doesn't make sense to plan beyond a few months doesn't mean that planning isn't important. The OKR system prescribes setting goals (objectives) and the specific metrics by which you'll track them (key results) on a quarterly basis. In my opinion, monthly or bi-quarterly planning probably makes more sense for startups still searching for their product/market fit. Since we started employing OKRs at our company, I don't think we've gone a single quarter where we haven't made significant adjustments to our objectives before the quarter was up.

A successful CEO-for-hire and friend of mine has a simple rule regarding board meetings that I think also applies to OKR planning intervals: a company that hasn't reached positive cash flow should have (lite) board meetings every month, whereas a company that has reached positive cash flow should have (more formal) board meetings quarterly. If you haven't reached positive cashflow, consider planning your OKRs on a monthly/bi-quarterly basis.

  • Make everyone an owner of something

One of the best aspects of OKRs is that it's a system designed to get everyone involved and on equal footing. As Mark Pincus has said, "it's about making everyone the CEO of something" – from the top management team on down to members of the support staff. The principal is a good one: everyone in a company should understand what the company's objectives are and be responsible for helping to achieve those objectives, in whatever capacity they're able. 

From a planning standpoint, I think there's still a need to take a bit of a top-down approach. Within our company and others I've worked with, the CEO/founders take the first step by setting their own OKRs, which represent the top-level objectives for the company (e.g., grow revenue by x, ship a product, establish y partnerships, etc.). Next, the CEO/founders review their OKRs w/ the top management team, each member of which will establish their own OKRs, and so on and so forth all the way down the company.

  • Encourage people to think big

Whatever the interval, when you and the members of your team set your OKRs the general rule is that each person should have three objectives, each w/ three key results. When John Doerr encouraged the Google team to start using OKRs, it was meant to be a system that would enable them to do amazing, world-changing things. The idea is this: objectives should be lofty enough that at the end of the quarter, when you score everything up, a successful result for any given employee would be 70% achievement. Achieving anywhere around 100% for one or more intervals means that person's objectives weren't big enough. 

Clearly, not every company is pursuing something as lofty as organizing the world's information, however and no matter what you do, the idea of getting everyone on your team to be thinking about and setting big goals for themselves is powerful. Like many aspects of the OKR system, it's a cultural thing; no employee wants to have their role and tasks solely defined by their superior, nor is that an effective way to manage. OKRs empower everyone to bring their own ideas to the table in a manner that supports the company's overall objectives and holds each person accountable for their results.

  • Be completely transparent

While the OKR planning process may require a somewhat top-down approach, when all the OKRs have been established for a given interval they should be made accessible to everyone in the company to review whenever they choose. We've found a good solution to be a shared Google spreadsheet, with pages for each team and their members (Management, Product, Sales, Marketing, etc.). Again, this is a culture decision: making everyones' OKRs available to anyone within the company is a powerful statement of leadership's commitment to transparency. No matter who you are, if you want to know what anyone's objectives are, all you have to do is look. 

Something I'm still trying to figure out is how we can better keep the OKRs in front of everyone, when they're not looking at the spreadsheet. We look at the spreadsheet twice a week: once on Monday to set that week's OKRs and then again on Friday to review and score them. However, it's way too easy to not look at (and forget) the OKRs after that Monday review. More on this later.

  • Establish a regimen

If all you did was put down OKRs at the beginning of the quarter and review how you did at the end of the quarter, chances are you and your team wouldn't come anywhere near achieving them. During the quarter, we set, review, and score OKRs on a weekly basis. These weekly OKRs are essentially children of the quarterly (parent) OKRs; added up over the course of a quarter, these children OKRs are how each one of us go about achieving our quarterly objectives.

Within our company, I ask my team members to put down their weekly OKRs on Sunday. Just like the quarterly OKRs, we each put down three objectives, each w/ three key results. Each of the objectives and set of key results should be focused on supporting the achievement of one of the quarterly objectives. Monday mornings at 9am we do a call to review (and if necessary, adjust) the weekly OKRs we've put down. Friday afternoons at 3pm we get back on the phone to review and score them.

MORE TO COME

Hopefully this provided you with a good, high-level understanding of the elements and benefits of the OKR system. With your help, I look forward to working out the specifics around how to more easily and effectively implement OKRs within any company. Till the next post!

OKR RESOURCES