Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Google and those TPS reports

Googler Chris Sacca has a fun post full of references to the movie "Office Space".

I remember this stage at Amazon.com. As the company grew, the MBAs flooded in, and the culture started to change. As Chris says:
The leaders of Google have realized, from the earliest days, that the company's own growth would be the biggest challenge.

Nevertheless, the potential big company pitfalls are always looming. As the size grows, I see colleagues, particularly those who join Google from other companies, tempted to carve out fiefdoms and mandate SWOT analyses and extensive Excel spreadsheets littered with three letter acronyms. I have seen a few mid-level bosses evoke the traditions of Japanese management and schedule "pre-meetings" to plan, discuss, and approve what will be planned, discussed and approved at the actual meeting itself. MBA-speak creeps into the parlance and these new managers require the filing of more and more TPS reports.

The good news? Google's culture of letting engineers and product folks build great stuff that users want is still winning the day.
See also my April 2004 post, "Kill Google, Vol. 1", where I said:
The first threat to Google is internal. Google needs to maintain a culture that produces and delivers innovative new products. So far, Google has done this by hiring some of the brightest and most creative researchers in the world.

But, as Google grows, having incredible people isn't enough. Communication becomes difficult in a large organization. Accountability drops, free riding increases. Great prototypes are developed, but never get out the door. People don't know who to contact and how to get things done.

Google is well known for having nearly no management -- the controlled chaos of a research lab -- but, unless Google can adjust its organizational structure to its new size, the firm may find its innovation crushed under its own growth.
See also my May 2006 post, "First, kill all the managers", where I talk about Google's management strategy and Googler Steve Yegge's thoughts on middle management.

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