How to measure your goals and progress

Transparant, simple and keeps you accountable with OKR

Defining your goals, measure them and keeping yourself and or the company accountable is easier said than done. A common struggle, with an easy fix. Reading ‘Measure What Matters' blew my mind and works like magic. Simple. Transparent. No-nonsense. 


Explained by example

Let me explain the concept first before going into the theoretical details. With something almost everyone personally can relate to 'how to lose 15 pounds'.

All the credits to the podcast 'Chasing Excellence, '#116 Turning broad goals into concrete action' by Ben Bergeron. Stolen with pride. I have written down a part of his show, edited to improve readability.


Ben Bergeron, one of the top coaches in the sport of CrossFit
'Find your why, define your goals and the specific actions within your control to get there. Track on a weekly basis. Figure out the obstacles and solve them. Take ownership. What is causing your obstacles and then make the changes.' https://benbergeron.com/
Ben Bergeron, one of the top coaches in the sport of CrossFit

Turn a broad goal into concrete actions

'How can you turn a broad goal into what you can do today to achieve it? How to have a system of accountability that allows you to be effective on a regular basis?'

'One of the solutions to make things happen is accountability.' 


First step 'Why'

'You begin with the higher level ideas. the ‘why’ behind it’. For example: ‘I want to get in shape’. Ask yourself 'Why do you want to get in shape?’

‘You have to answer that question first. You can’t leave it at that. Because what happens is that, if your 'why' doesn’t hurt enough, you are not going to do it.'

'You have to figure out, what it is you are trying to solve. How important is that to you? If it is something like ‘I need to get in shape because if I don’t …' or 'I need to change my lifestyle, if I don’t, the doctor said, I am going to die in six months.’ That’s a pretty big why. Most people in that situation change what they are doing.'

'You have to start with a really big thing, with a big why. If the why is not big enough you will not be as successful as you could be.'

'You need a big why to withstand some struggle and adversity along the way. And you are going to be excited to be held accountable along the way.' 


Second step 'get specific'

'From there you need to get specific. From motivational qualitative specific metrics (mission and vision) into specific objectives to narrow it down to one thing. What fires you up and gets you out of bed. From there, break it down into smart, measurable key results.'

'Have between 3 to 5 goals (and key results).'

'Then you break these goals into quarters, as landmarks. You can hold your attention for about three months. And at the end of these 90 days, you have a quarterly check-in and you ask yourself how you did. Schedule this in your google calendar en hold yourself accountable.'

'This is the magic. This is the accountability everyone else is missing when they make New Year's resolutions goals. They start and they are going for ten days and then the end of the year comes up and ‘I don’t really remember what they were…’

'Every single quarter you are going to check in to see if you are tracking to hit your one years’ and you can have different quarterlies along the way.'


Example: 'How to lose 15 pounds' and your why

'For example, you want to lose 15 pounds this year. The first question I ask is ‘why?’, Because what you created there is the metric. I don’t know if that really gets you geared up or not. So ‘why do you want to lose 15 pounds’?'

‘I want to lose 15 pounds because I want to look more confident on the beach.’

‘Why do you want to look more confident on the beach?’

‘Because I am looking for a romantic partner.’

‘Now we are getting to something, this is actually a meaningful thing. You want more confidence. It is not about those 15 pounds. What you want to do, is to have more confidence to find a potential partner. Now we are getting to your real ‘why’. What we do is to spend some time formulating this, that resonates, that’s real. Losing the 15 pounds is one of the things to get to your end goal, finding that romantic partner. Now we have the why behind that.'

We got two things now:

  • the big overarching thing that makes it a bit sexier and rememberable: the why is to 'find a romantic partner'
  • the specific objective is to ‘lose 15 pounds next year’


Objective and key results [OKR]

'From there what we do is to define ‘what do we believe we need to do in the next 90 days to get there’. Break it down into quarterly objective(s). And put these completely inside your control. 'You can’t just say I need to lose 5 pounds. We need to turn that objective into actionable and controllable things that are going to help you lose those 5 pounds, your key results. 

'The 90-day objective is to ‘lose 5 pounds.’

'The corresponding key results are what you need to make sure you do, to lose those 5 pounds in that quarter.'

 What are the things you must do that are totally in your control?' Your key results can be, like, ‘no desserts’ or ‘no eating out’ and ‘working out consistency’. Now, let’s make these three super-specific and measurable.

  • ‘You are going to CrossFit 4 days a week’
  • ‘you are going to eat out only once a week’
  • ‘no desserts except for Saturday night’


The secret is the check-in

'Now we have this... Every single week, at the same time, we are going to check-in. With a coach, with a business partner or with yourself. We are going through your key results and track how did we last week. And you are going to hold yourself accountable.'

'It is amazing what checking a box does for people. It is amazing what social pressure can do. This is the secret sauce.'

'You go through the specific results: ‘done’ or ‘not done’. If you have a miss, talk about why you missed that. Now we are doing something, we are solving an issue. Than we are getting to that cause again, zoom out and ask ‘why’ you had a miss.

‘It was really tough.’

‘Why was it tough?’

Pull it back a few dominos and we might find things like obstacles we didn’t even realize; like ‘my schedule is this’, or ‘we are not grocery shopping enough’ or ... we might find so many things. Now we are solving things along the way to clear the obstacles that allow you to achieve your goal. And become accountable on a weekly basis.

If you rinse, wash, repeat that process, 12 times over a quarter, we get to the end of the quarter and we do another check-in. Depending on the result, create the next set of accountabilities for the next quarter.

Find you why, define your goals and the specific actions within your control to get there. Track on a weekly basis. Figure it out the obstacles and solve them. Take ownership yourself. What is causing them and then make the changes.


The power is being accountable

The power is in the peer pressure. Being accountable to some else, to do this in person, look them in the eye and say ‘I didn’t do that’. We, human beings, feel the responsibility towards each other to follow through to our word. It creates a lot of accountability along the way. (Not saying you cannot do it on your own as well.)

This is the secret to get your business to move forward, This is the secret to get your yearly goals and resolutions, to move the needle for you personally. You need to answer on a weekly basis if you are doing these things to achieve quarterly objectives that stack up to your one year.


OKR theory explained

A simple goal setting system and to keep track of your progress is the ‘Objective and Key Results’ [OKR] methodology. It describes your ’what we think is important and why this is important’ plus ‘how do we get there’. In the meanwhile, it smashes those nasty departmental silos. 

In all honesty, the terminology 'OKR' falsely appears to be a buzz word. It is anything but. Continue to read and give it a go, it really works and moves the needle. From business objectives into personal objectives. I tried and tested with a project for the Olympics Tokyo 2020 and writing this book.

This OKR methodology blew my mind. I never heard about it and it feels like the best-kept secret. 


Simple and transparent

I like it because of its simplicity, transparency, openness and no-nonsense approach. It gives a tangible measurable direction with accountability and clarity. As all is written down, openly communicated and available for all employees in the company, everyone knows what everyone else is doing and can help each other.

‘With the eruption of social media, transparency is the default setting for our daily lives. It’s the express lane to operating excellence. Yet at most companies today, goals remain secrets.’ This OKR methodology embraces this transparency to enable the entire company to work towards the same goals. Everybody knows the projects the others are working on, therefor it also becomes easier to say ’no’ to requests that are not in line with your OKRs. It makes objectives objective, written down in black and white.

This is used by brands like AOL, BMW, Disney, Dropbox, Exxon, Google, Intel, LinkedIn, Oracle, Samsung, Slack, Spotify, and Twitter. If it works for them, for sure it can work for me and you. Described into detail by John Doerr in ‘Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs’.


Objective 'what'

You set your objective, ‘what’ is the most important for the next three, six or even twelve months. What will move the company — and you — forward. The attribution to the business value has to be clear, otherwise, there is no need to invest time and effort in the objective.

Ideally, you stick to 3 or a maximum of 5 objectives quarterly to keep your focus. Significant, concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational. And have one owner for the accountability. If your objective doesn’t fit in one line, it is not clear enough. If you wrote it down in 5 minutes they probably are not good, think.

First, you set the company OKR, than for the team followed by the individual OKRs. By being open and transparent on all objectives from top to down, the entire company can truly work as a team. And help each other.


Key Result 'how'

This is the ‘how’ you are going to get to the objective. Very detailed and specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, measurable and verifiable. Describe the desired outcome, not the activities. Mostly a maximum of five KR’s is what you need to reach the objective.


Four benefits

The four direct benefits of the OKR methodology is to bring focus and commit to priorities, to align and connect for teamwork, to track for accountability, and to stretch for amazing.


Time path

  • 4–6 weeks before quarter: Brainstorm Annual and Q1 OKRs for Company. Senior leaders start brainstorming top-line company OKRs. If you’re setting OKRs for Q1, this is also the time to set your annual plan, which can help guide the direction of the company.
  • 2 weeks before quarter: Communicate Company-wide OKRs for Upcoming Year and Q. Finalize company OKRs and communicate them to everyone.
  • Start of quarter: Communicate Team Q1 OKRs. Based on the company’s OKRs, teams develop their own OKRs and share them at their meetings.
  • 1 week after Start of quarter: Share Employee Q1 OKRs. One week after team OKRs are communicated, contributors share their own OKRs. This may require negotiation between contributors and their managers, typically in one-on-one settings.
  • Throughout quarter: Employees Track Progress and Check-in. Throughout the quarter, employees measure and share their progress, checking in regularly with their managers.
  • Near end of quarter: Employees Reflect and Score Q1 OKRs. Toward the end of the quarter, contributors score their OKRs, perform a self-assessment, and reflect on what they have accomplished.


An example by Intel

Objective: ‘Demonstrate the 8080’s superior performance as compared to the Motorola 6800’

Key Results:

  • Deliver five benchmarks. Develop a demo.
  • Develop sales training materials for the field force.
  • Call on three customers to prove the material works.’


Another example

Objective ‘Win the Indy 500’

Key Results:

  • Increase average lap speed by 2 percent
  • Test at wind tunnel ten times
  • Reduce average pit stop time by one second
  • Reduce pit stop errors by 50 percent
  • Practice pit stops one hour per day


Read the book

This is just scratching the surface with the essence described in a nutshell. On my personal recommendation, read this book, try it for yourself and never look back. ‘Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs’ by John Doerr



Defining your goals, measure them, and keeping yourself and or the company accountable is easier said than done. A common struggle, with an easy fix. Let me explain the magical OKR concept first before going into the theoretical details. With something almost everyone personally can relate to 'how to lose 15 pounds'.