Monday, December 05, 2005

Google's rules of management

In a Newsweek article, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that Google's management philosophy gives them a competitive advantage over other firms.

A few highlights from the article:
Cater to their every need ... The goal is to "strip away everything that gets in their way." We provide a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses -- just about anything a hardworking engineer might want. Let's face it: programmers want to program, they don't want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them.

Data drive decisions. At Google, almost every decision is based on quantitative analysis. We've built systems to manage information, not only on the Internet at large, but also internally ... We have a raft of online "dashboards" for every business we work in that provide up-to-the-minute snapshots of where we are.

We adhere to the view that the "many are smarter than the few" ... At Google, the role of the manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator of decisions. Building a consensus ... always produces a more committed team and better decisions.

Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers ... Everyone's opinion counts, making the hiring process more fair and pushing standards higher ... If you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring process, you'll get more great people ... [a] positive feedback loop ... [with] a huge payoff.

A trusted work force is a loyal work force.
See also my previous posts ([1] [2] [3] [4]) on Google's exceptional benefits and the advantages it gives them.

See also my previous post, "The Human Equation", where I discuss a book that argues that investing heavily in your people pays off not just for knowledge workers, but for all workers.

[Newsweek article via Niall Kennedy]

Update: Some additional insight in a Business 2.0 interview of Eric Schmidt by John Battelle. [via Gary Price]


chris sivori said...

Process, process, process...

Watch as Google becomes bloated by bureaucracy. Most technocratic systems fail to account adequately for human irrationality.

Greg Linden said...

Yes, it is really hard to manage rapid growth.

I even thought this might be deadly for Google, as I wrote about a year and a half ago in this post.

There was an interesting BusinessWeek article (which I summarized) talking about how Google's Marissa Mayer and others explicitly fight bloat. They seem to be doing a pretty remarkable job so far.

But, it will be an ongoing battle, a battle many rapidly growing startups lose.

Rod Edwards said...

Do you think Google is losing focus, strategically? Is "indexing everything" or "organizing information" (or whatever their mission is) to diffuse a target? Is their growth and prolileration of projects/services sapping the focus on execution that made their initial offerings so effective?

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Rod. A lot of people have commented on that, some saying that Google is becoming a portal, others claiming that Google is losing their focus on search.

I'm not sure I agree. Their core products -- search, advertising, and the remarkable cluster that powers it all -- seems to be getting the vast majority of their attention.

My understanding is that the proliferation of products comes out of several dozen very small, independent teams at Google. I'm not sure they end up being much of a distraction for the rest of the company.

What do you think, Rod? Do you think Google is in danger of losing focus?

b7j0c said...

oh come on now, we've seen this before. in the 90s people treated tech execs like they were gods, every word they uttered was as if sent down from mount olympus. a reversal in the stock and they were just managers again.

google is by no means the first tech company to provide good food and in-house laundry. don't we remember free in-house massages from 1998?????

perks are given out when they can be afforded and removed when they cannot. nothing has changed.

Greg Linden said...

b7j0c, this isn't about tech execs. This is about the value of exceptional benefits for recruiting, retaining, and maximizing the performance of software engineers.

Exceptional benefits are not that expensive compared to the costs of hiring, of low productivity, or of losing key employees.

See my earlier posts, "Free food at Google", "Google's perks", and "The Human Equation".