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What Google Taught Me About Measuring Success

Every now and then, you stumble across a piece of online content (e.g. video, blog post, infographic) that has a huge impact on you as a professional. Last year, I was learning more about Google Ventures (Google’s venture capital investment arm) when I came across a video on how Google sets objectives and measures success internally.

At 81 minutes long, the video isn’t a short one. However, it is totally worth the watch if you have the time.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJB83EZtAjc]

Knowing you, you’re probably so busy being an awesome physical educator that you might not have the time to sit down for almost an hour and a half and watch a video on how to set goals à la Google. That being said, I thought I’d break the video down and give you some of the key points here.

Before I get started, I want to let you know that this system is how I go about setting my own goals for teaching, professional development, and this website you’re currently on. The system doesn’t just look good on paper and it doesn’t just work for entities as large as Google. It’s tried, tested and true. That’s why I’m sharing it with you today.

Cool? Alright, then. Onwards we go:

Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)

From my understanding, Google sets objectives for themselves on a quarterly basis. Objectives are set not only at a company level, but also at a team level, at a managerial level, and at a personal level throughout the organization. Objectives are large, ambitious, and slightly uncomfortable goals that are aligned with the organization’s overall mission. In the video, Rick Klau says that you should limit your objectives to 4-6 per quarter. In my experience, I find that 2-3 is the maximum I can handle at a time. Also, aside from the website’s OKRs, I usually plan my objectives around the school year terms instead of by quarter (although I will count summer as a term).

Once you have your objectives lined up, it’s time to break each one down into key results.

Key results are smaller, quantifiable, goals that are perfectly aligned with their parent objective and that can lead to an objective grade. There should be about 3-5 key results for each objective that you have identified.

Confused yet? Let’s look at an example to make this all easier to understand.

Let’s say your a passionate physical educator who’s looking to bring a new approach to your teaching. You’ve heard about the Sport Education model but have never actually used it in your physical education program. So you decide to set the following objective for yourself.

“Plan, Organize, and Teach a Successful Sport Education Season”

Ok, so now that you have your objective for this term, you need to break it down into key results. Here’s what you go with:

1. Read “The Complete Guide to Sport Education” by Siedentop, Hastie, and van der Mars.
2. Skype with 5 passionate physical educators who have used the Sport Education model.
3. Create unit plan for Sport Education season (including all resource/assessment materials).
4. Implement Sport Education season with grade 6 class (including pre-season, season, culminating event, and celebration).

By reaching each of those key results, you will be making progress towards your overall objective for that term (this is all very similar to the unpacking/backwards design process I’ve described in The Great Unpacking preface).

Once you’ve set your OKRs, it’s time to get to work. Throughout the term, you will be taking actions that will bring you closer to being able to check off those key results. Personally, as a big believer in the “Getting Things Done” methodology, I like breaking key results down further into next actions so that I always know which action I can take next to bring me closer to my goal. For example, the “Read “The Complete Guide to Sport Education” by Siedentop, Hastie, and van der Marskey result could be broken down into these next actions:

  • Purchase book
  • Read/annotate chapter one
  • Read/annotate chapter eleven
  • Produce summary paper based off of notes

Deciding on next actions early on might seem very tedious (it is), but it really does help me stay as focused as possible. Good tools to help you with the “Getting Things Done” methodology are Things (my GTD tool of choice), Wunderlist, and Trello (which Mike and I use to coordinate actions at ThePhysicalEducator.com.

Ok, so you’ve set your OKRs, you’ve broken them down into next actions, and you’ve worked your butt off throughout the term. What’s next?

Measuring Success/Progress

At the end of your term/quarter, you will look back on your key results and assign each key result a grade from 0-1. A score of zero means you made absolutely no progress towards that key result (and that happens from time to time… things change along the way and certain key results don’t seem worth while as you move forward). A score of one means you completely knocked your key result out of the park. What you’re aiming for are scores between .6 and .7. This might sound crazy, but the reason is because want to be setting key results that are going to challenge you. If you’re scoring 1s everywhere, either your key results were too easy or your objectives weren’t ambitious enough (or you’re super-human, which could be the case too).

Once you’ve scored each key result, the average of those scores will give you an overall score for your objective. Here’s what that could look like in the example we did above:

“Plan, Organize, and Teach a Successful Sport Education Season” [Overall Score: .75]

1. Read “The Complete Guide to Sport Education” by Siedentop, Hastie, and van der Mars. [Score: .9]
2. Skype with 5 passionate physical educators who have used the Sport Education model. [
Score: .8]
3. Create a high quality unit plan for Sport Education season (including all resource/assessment materials). [
Score: .6]
4. Implement Sport Education season with grade 6 class (including pre-season, season, culminating event, and celebration). [
Score: .7]

From there, you can create an average of all of the scores of the objectives that you have set for yourself throughout that term to give an overall score for the term.

So why measure your success/progress? By measuring, you’re providing yourself with some insight into what works and what doesn’t, what’s worthwhile and what’s not. The data you’re collecting will help you make better choices as you move forward. The better the choices you make, the faster you will get to wherever it is you want to be.

How To Use OKRs

There are a lot of ways you can use this OKR system to help set goals and measure success in your life. For example:

As a teacher, you can use OKRs for your own professional development to help you continue to grow as a teaching professional.

As a department head, you and the members of your department can use OKRs to help make sure that your physical education department continues to evolve so as to provide your students with the best educational experience possible.

As an administrator, you and your faculty can use OKRs to ensure that your actions stay aligned with your overall school mission so that you continue to best serve the students and families that are a part of your school’s community.

As a #physed blogger, you can use OKRs to ensure that you continue to grow your audience, provide valuable resources to your readers, and help raise the bar for #physed everywhere.

I’d be very interested to hear about how you have gone about setting objectives and measuring success in the past and if you think that Google’s OKR system is something that could be useful to you and your team. Feel free to share any thoughts and/or opinions in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com.

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Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

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