"Make a business for yourself, boy, set some goals/Make a diamond out of dusty coals," advises Big Boi on Outkast's seminal 2000 single "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)."
But setting goals can be trickier than it sounds in the modern enterprise: When compensation is tied to meeting your goals, there's every incentive for workers to under-promise and make mediocrity look like over-delivery. Google (allegedly) cracked this nut a while back -- if you decouple the paycheck from the performance report, but make your goals visible to literally everybody else in the company, people are more willing to take risks and aim high.
It's that exact Google-esque philosophy that BetterWorks, a startup coming out of stealth mode today with a Series A investment round of $15.5 million from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, is aiming to bring to enterprises of all sizes. To help them get there, famed venture capitalist John Doerr, who invented this approach at Intel and brought it to Google, is joining BetterWorks' board of directors.
BetterWorks bases its own approach -- which it calls Goal Science, which hits the sweet spot at the intersection of high trademarkability and low meaning -- on Google's so-called OKR (Objectives and Key Results) thinking. Doerr brought that methodology, where everybody can see everyone else's goals, to Google when it had 40 employees, and it's still used today.
BetterWorks CEO and Co-Founder Kris Duggan, best known for founding gamification enterprise platform Badgeville, refers to his new business as "like Fitbit for business." Every employee at a company using BetterWorks sets goals for themselves , rather than having them set for them by a manager. Every project is represented as a "tree," with "branches" splitting off. If the tasks closer to the root of the tree aren't getting done, the tree withers.
"You have to keep your trees healthy," Duggan says.
A clean, lightweight interface makes it easy for everyone to see how far along everybody else's goals are toward completion, and crucially, cheer them on, adding the all-important element of social engagement.
The best side-effect of this approach, Duggan says, is that by focusing on what employees think they can do, and by making it visible to everybody everywhere, it boosts the likelihood of people across departments finding projects to work on together.
"In a modern company, it's almost expected that you have this," Duggan says.
It sounds like such a simple idea: Track progress, and let anybody see that progress. But I suspect that if it were really such an easy nut to crack, it wouldn't take such a seasoned team of people who know their way around the enterprise space to get there. Still, even in stealth mode, Duggan says BetterWorks has signed somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 customers across verticals. It seems like we're still looking for better ways of working together.
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