Chapter OneIntroduction to OKRs

THE HISTORY OF OKRs

We're fans of the BBC television show Connections, which premiered way back in 1978, and was later reprised in 1994 and 1997. The program demonstrated how major discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, and historical events were “built from one another successively in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology.”1 What the show made clear is that there is a long and interesting history behind virtually everything. So it is with OKRs. While we think of the model as relatively new—most of us would pin its origination to Google's adoption in the 1990s—it is actually the result of a successive number of frameworks, approaches, and philosophies whose lineage we can track back well over a hundred years. At the turn of the twentieth century, organizations were much enamored with the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, a pioneer in the nascent field of Scientific Management. Taylor was among the first to apply scientific rigor to the field of management, demonstrating how such an approach could vastly improve both efficiency and productivity.

In another development, in the 1920s, researchers discovered what would later be termed “The Hawthorne Effect.” At a factory (Hawthorne Works) outside of Chicago, investigators examined the impact of light on employee performance. The studies suggested that productivity improved when lighting increased. However, it was later determined the changes were most likely ...

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