I get the question a lot, what books about OKRs I recommend. Here is my TOP 10 OKR Books list. Of course there are many more valuable resources like podcasts, blogs, keynotes, meet-ups, etc. which I’m going to list in another post.
My #1 book recommendation! Christina Wodtke’s Radical Focus is to me THE number one book on OKRs. She supports her statements and recommendations with real life experience. She has great practical information and explanation how NOT to cascade OKRs but to align instead with OKRs. In the first half of the book she tells the story of two founders why and how they start with OKRs, which challenges they face and how they align and focus their efforts around OKRs.
Joshua Seiden’s Outcomes over Output is not a OKR book per se, but being able to differentiate between Output, Outcome and Impact is crucial for good OKRs. Therefore it is my number 2 book recommendation. Joshua Seiden obviously has the talent to explain such a valuable and important concept in a very easy to read language.
Paul R. Niven and Ben Lamorte’s book on Objectives and Key Results provides a very thorough overview from what OKRs is, what to take into consideration, to how to implement it.
Patrick Lobacher and Christian Jacob’s (die.agilen) book is actually the first book I read about Objectives and Key Results, before I did my OKR Master training with them. If you understand German I’d recommend it, because it contains quite a lot of practical information about the OKR Process and OKR Events.
While we’re talking about measurable Key Results… one of my eye opening aha moments was when I understood the difference between lag and lead measures, as described in “The Four Disciplines of Execution”. The business goal might be to increase the profit (lag measure), which however happens at the end of the process as a result of things I do, such as solving problems of the customers (lead measures), which then will have an impact on the end result.
While you advance in your OKR journey, sooner or later you’ll discover how difficult it is to write measurable Key Results. You’ll hear teams saying “but this is noting we can measure”. Douglas W. Hubbard claims that it is possible to measure the intangibles: “… some things seem intangible only because they just haven’t defined what they are talking about. Figure out what you mean and you are halfway to measuring it.”.
OKRs help to execute the strategy and to learn along the way but they won’t help to develop a good strategy. A good strategy needs a lot more than implementing OKRs. The results of the OKRs will be mostly a reflection of your strategy. Therefore I recommend to spend time with developing the strategy before starting with OKRs. Richard Rumelt’s book “Good Strategy Bad Strategy” contain quite a lot of impulses to think of.
Klaus Leopold’s book “Rethinking Agile” has nothing to do directly with OKRs but it is a great book full of great observations showing that agile practices applied in team level will not help in becoming agile. For me OKRs is great model to apply in the strategic level (Flight Level #3) to rethink the priorities and align around measurable outcomes.
Last but not least, “High Output Management” of Andrew Grove, the creator of OKRs at Intel is also a must read. However, keep in mind that Andy Grove developed OKRs in 70s and OKRs have evolved quite a lot since then. It has become less output oriented and more outcome oriented. Also Google moved from output oriented to more outcome oriented OKRs during last two decades.
John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters is the most known resource about OKRs. He writes both about the origins of OKRs at Intel and how and why Google started using OKRs. Plus there are many first hand experience stories of start-ups and founders how they executed their vision with help of OKRs.
While the book tells great stories how OKR can help to make the world a better place, IMHO it contains some really bad OKR examples and cascading models in organisational levels. So read it for the stories, but not to learn how to do OKR. Read Felipe Castro’s Book Review: Measure What Really Matters – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of John Doerr’s OKR Book
Which of the above listed books have you read and what do you think about them? What other books do you recommend?