The engineering mindset of solving the impossible problems is part of the culture instilled in every group at Google.
-Don Douge, Developer advocate at Google.
The Google goal setting process happens in a 90 day cycle…
Every quarter every group at Google sets goals, called OKRs, for the next 90 days. Most big companies set annual goals like improving or growing something by x%, and then measure performance once a year. At Google a year is like a decade. Annual goals aren’t good enough. Set quarterly goals, set them at impossible levels, and then figure out how to achieve them. Measure progress every quarter and reward outstanding achievement.
The following observations and insights with the goal-setting process at Google:
- OKRs are Objectives and Key Results. They expect to see stretch goals that seemed impossible to fully achieve. Most people ask, “Why set unrealistic goals?” Google’s answer is “Because you can’t achieve amazing results by setting modest targets. We want amazing results. We want to tackle the impossible”.
- Failure is not an option – Taken the wrong way, that actually conditions people to set modest achievable goals that they are certain they can achieve. Because if they fail…they are fired. Taking great risks, pushing innovation, and striving to achieve the impossible will never happen at companies like that. Google’s culture is “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found lots of approaches that don’t work, and I am closer to the solution”.
- Achieving 65% of the impossible is better than 100% of the ordinary – Setting impossible goals and achieving part of them sets you on a completely different path than the safe route. Sometimes you can achieve the impossible in a quarter, but even when you don’t, you are on a fast track to achieving it soon. Measuring success every quarter allows for mid course corrections and setting higher goals for the next quarter.
- Rewards For Success – The rewards for achieving the impossible are significant. Google attracts the best people in the industry for many reasons, maybe most importantly because they give people the resources and support they need to achieve the impossible. Financial rewards are significant, but they are not the primary motivator. Working with the best people in the world and achieving greatness is the ultimate reward.