How Andy Groves Created the OKR Methodology, from John Doerr’s “Measure What Matters”

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) exploded back onto the scene with the publication of John Doerr’s New York Times best-seller, “Measure What Matters” in April of this year. I say “back onto the scene” because OKRs have been around since the mid-seventies. In his book, Doerr refers to Andy Groves of Intel as the Father of OKRs. What was Groves’ inspiration for OKRs? What was his motivation? We’ll answer these questions below.

OKRs, an Adaption of Previous Management Methodologies

Groves first began development of a formal goal setting protocol back in 1971, when Intel was in its infancy. Groves did not truly “create” OKRs, rather he “adapted” the methodology from Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives ideology. There were several key principles in Drucker’s The Practice of Management, which inspired Groves:

  • Drucker articulated a system of long and short-range planning,
  • with frequent progress reviews,
  • and with input from the individual.

From Drucker’s teachings, Groves derived two key phrases to support his adaptation, Objectives and Key Results, OKRs. Objectives answer the “What” is to be accomplished, and Key Results answers “How”. Think of the Key Result as a milestone or KPI. This was the genesis of OKRs, what Groves initially referred to as iMBOs, (Intel MBOs), later termed OKRs, by Doerr.

Groves Motivation for OKRs

Groves’ motivation for creating OKRs were two-fold:

  1. OKRs are a simple yet powerful concept, ideal for use with the engineering staff at Intel.
  2. OKRs are superb at establishing the most critical goals of the organization, aligning the workforce with these goals, and, monitoring performance. Thus, creating an environment of achievement.

What else did you learn about Groves from “Measure What Matters”? We’d love to hear from you.

Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!


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