Keeping Google “Googley”
Kim Scott joined the Google team as the director of the Google product AdSense in 2004. Google was a company that started in 2004 with 3,000 employees and by 2008 boasted 17,000 employees. The company prided itself in hiring employees that fit the ‘Google personality’, meaning they would be part of an innovative, open corporate culture. Google didn’t want to be known for strict corporate culture, and instead present itself with an entrepreneurial reputation. Kim Scott wants to ensure the Google Company remains the same place as when she started in 2004. Google Management consisted of 50 reports to one manager in the early years. Over time, however, they have hired more managers so the ratio of reports to managers was more manageable. The goal of middle management is to challenge employees to do more, not less. Part of the Google work philosophy is to keep the leadership model loose and focus on ideas. Unlike most organizations, managers aren’t put in place at Google to micro-manage or watch employees. Instead, Google employees are expected be self-motivating and self-guiding. Employees are given projects or ideas from leadership and then left to execute the best way they see fit. Often times, management within the organization are viewed as co-workers to the employees.
When asked who runs the AdSense division of the Google organization, Kim Scott was quoted as saying “Nobody.” This response was based on the fact no one person is responsible for the AdSense division, it’s essentially a team effort. While Scott is the director, she relies heavily on her direct team to perform online sales and operational tasks. Scott’s team works very closely with the Product Management team that works with engineering on functionality. Innovation is the foundation Google is built on. Employees are hand-picked to be creative, innovative, and open to sharing ideas. One day per week was set aside at the company for employees to devote their time to work on anything they wanted, which has led over the years to some of Google’s most infamous products, such as Google Mail. To recognize innovation, Google had a reward system. One type of recognition award allowed managers to recognize employees on their team for developing exceptional product ideas. Another award, the “Google Founders’ Awards” came with monetary stock grants. The awards were a way for the company to retain employees and reward good ideas. Innovation within the company does not come with risk or negative connotation if not successful. Instead, Google promotes employees to not be afraid of new ideas because of potential consequences.
Google continues to grow at rapid rates, almost at a speed that scares Kim Scott and others. Amongst the things Kim Scott would like to see that make the company great to work for are the avoidance of corporate Bureaucracy, maintaining rapid decision-making, ensuring visibility, and international consistency. Google wanted to ensure they didn’t follow corporate suite by adhering to politics, holding meetings all day, and unnecessary company policies. Kim Scott has worked for other companies before Google and has enjoyed the culture at Google, because it’s different than most large companies. As Scott saw the company grow significantly over four years, she feared Google would follow to the same corporate culture as other companies. This would go against the “Googley” philosophy the company prided itself on. As Google continues to rise year after year, it may be increasingly harder for it to stay out of the bureaucracy. Kim Scott hopes Google remains the company she was hired into in 2004.
As the company continues to grow, it doesn’t mean they have to conform to a different culture. Innovation is very important to Google and its employees. It will be very important, however, they continue to make employees feel like they are entrepreneurs and are encouraged to bring forward great ideas. Employees kept themselves in check to ensure they were considered “Googley” and not “Dilberty”. In the interview process, candidates are thoroughly screened to ensure they met “googley” qualities and can adapt to the environment. At one point, Kim Scott hired additional managers to keep up with growth, which concerned people about losing the innovation methodology of Google. The managers Scott hired, however didn’t squash innovation, but rather embraced it.
Google is not considered a ‘top-down’ organization. Employees prefer to be mentored, rather managed. It is important to the employees they are free to be creative and innovative in the work they do without criticism or micro management. The concept of having meetings to discuss ideas instead of making decisions has been another success for Google. The engineers were given one free day a week to work on anything they chose. This lead to the development of great tools like Google Mail and Google News. This one free day a week ended up being very productive for the company. As new employees are hired, it will be important for Google to ensure they embrace the same philosophies Google prides itself on. The company should continue to reward employees for their innovations.