There are so many people working so hard and achieving so little.
Andras Istvan Grof, better known simply as Andy Grove, was Intel’s third employee when the company was founded in 1968. He would later take on the roles of president, CEO, and chairman with the company, and he was instrumental in directing Intel’s incredible success. In the 11 years he served as CEO, from 1987 to 1998, Andy Grove grew Intel from a market cap of $4 billion to nearly $200 billion.
It’s pretty safe to say that he knew a thing or two about what it took to be successful. I dove a little deeper into his story while reading Measure What Matters by John Doerr. The book focuses on the paradigm of OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. OKRs are a framework under which companies and their employees can set and align their goals. And Andy Grove was a huge proponent of OKRs.
As Scrooge McDuck’s McPapa so famously taught us, we need to work smarter, not harder. Don’t confuse efficiency with effectiveness. While you may be busy, you might not be productive. It doesn’t matter how many steps you take if you’re walking in the wrong direction.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with hard work. Indeed, a strong work ethic and willingness to put in the hours are traits worthy of praise. But focus is necessary if you want that hard work to pay off. Otherwise, you’ll just get stuck in an opportunity cost loop, hopping from one bright idea to another. If you take two steps north, two steps west, two steps east, and two steps south, you will have taken eight steps and not gotten anywhere.
A few extremely well-chosen objectives impart a clear message about what we say “yes” to and what we say “no” to.
In Measure What Matters, John Doerr calls Andy Grove the “Father of OKRs.” Andy Grove didn’t coin the term necessarily, but he defined the framework and championed its execution. Objectives have to be very clearly defined (and inherently lofty), and key results had to be measurable and verifiable. In other words, “objectives” define your “what” and your “why,” whereas key results describe your “how.”
A big part of why OKRs worked so well for Intel (and Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) is due to focus. You’re not supposed to have a 15 OKRs; you should only have about three or so. As Andy Grove says, by knowing your priorities, it’s much easier to say “no” to projects and opportunities that would otherwise distract you from those priorities.
Zume Pizza is an innovative business based out of Mountain View, California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. They use robots to make the pizza right in the delivery trucks themselves. With advanced algorithms and other technologies, they’re able to deliver piping hot pizza in a fraction of the time. Co-founder and CEO Julia Collins further emphasizes the importance of focus.
I’ve worked for some great leaders in my day. They were all very different, but one thing they had in common was this cold, sober focus. If you sat down with them for twenty minutes, they were completely uncluttered in their thinking. They could drill down very clearly on what needed to be done.
You can do anything and everything you want. You just can’t do them all at the same time. Zero in on what’s most important to you, and allow yourself the freedom to let everything else fall to the wayside. You can come back to that later.