Book Review: Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke

Wodtke takes a unique approach to explaining OKRs in “Radical Focus”. This book is unique due to that it’s written as what can be called a business novel. It’s part fable, part autobiography and part business manual. Even though the approach isn’t the most conventional, I found the insights and framework provided valuable for anyone planning on using OKRs across an organization.

This book is a great compliment to John Doerr’s, “Measure What Matters”. Wodtke takes a bit of a deeper dive in to real world scenarios with OKRs. Doerr shows how OKRs have worked, Wodtke shows how OKRs won’t work.

What makes this book stand out for me is the chapter that’s specific to OKRs for Product Teams written by Marty Cagan. If you find yourself not feeling the business novel based approach and want to put the book down, skip to chapter 10 before you do so.

A few key takeaways are:

  • Don’t leave out department and individual OKRs
    • Although Product Team OKRs are the highest priority, it’s important to collaborate with the squad to prioritize department and individual OKRs as well
  • Set a pace that makes sense
    • Keep your OKRs time-bound, but be cautious of making it too long
    • Typically OKRs are set per quarter, but do what makes sense for your team and business
  • Keep it simple for better focus
    • At an organizational level aim to have only one OKR per quarter
    • Having too many OKRs per quarter will cause teams to fire in all directions
  • Make some “Big Hairy Audacious Key Results”
    • Key results are meant to be aspirational
    • It’s ok to be uncomfortable with the key results, as a matter of fact it’s recommended to be 50% confident when setting key results
    • The purpose is that you want to make sure that even if you don’t hit the target, getting close will still be a big win (don’t forget to celebrate those wins!)
  • Don’t have a metric driven objective
    • Aim to inspire with your objective, and focusing on a metric isn’t very inspirational
  • Track confidence and adjust accordingly
    • If a key result no longer makes sense, change it
  • Be patient
    • OKRs won’t be perfect the first time around
    • Be agile, experiment and make adjustments till it works
  • Communication is key
    • Aim to have at least 3 team wide communications for OKRs
      • Friday meetings for celebrating wins
      • Monday meetings for status updates
      • Weekly emails with wins, statuses, blockers and confidence

Overall this was a very insightful look into some suggestions for implementing OKRs. It’s a pretty quick read, so if you got a few hours definitely pick this up.

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