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November 06, 2006



Have you read Shona Brown's book on _Competing on the Edge_? (Recently mentioned in the Fortune Magazine article on chaos at Google and a very interesting read.) In the framework of structured chaos she describes, you do need a few rules to keep everyone going in the same direction, but limit their number to a minimum set to allow creativity.

I don't think rules are bad per se. But you need to keep the focus on end products, not processes.

Chris Sacca

I actually have read Shona's book and she is one of the company leaders I refer to above with deep respect. I think Shona has been a pioneer of very successful techniques that allow for rapid growth while maintaining sufficient order to hold it together.

I don't think innovation requires anarchy. Not at all. But, that said, I think there are very material distinctions between bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake, and a well-devised, light-touch, evolving operational framework that helps everyone succeed.

When I first joined Google years ago, I will admit that I didn't really understand Shona's role. However, as Google has grown, her contributions become clearer and clearer to me and it is increasingly obvious that they really do underpin the culture of innovation we enjoy today.


Sacca, you nailed it. Our company has been hiring and promoting Bill Lumbergs. While I do not mind coming in on Sunday, I am not cool with the new cover sheets on our TPS reports. I did not get the memo and I am keeping this red stapler.

Engineers used to run Google. Much less so now. I hope you can fix it.

Cowardly Googler

Thank you for having the balls to not just type this stuff but stir the pot at work. I like knowing you are around there trying to keep things real.

Alan Green

Pre-meetings. *shudder*

Standing on the outside looking in, I often wonder how Google keep their culture in the midst of that massive growth. It's interesting to hear how seriously Google are taking the problem.


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In my experience there isn't much of a problem yet with Lumbergs. But I've seen the sheer bigness of Google start to corrupt what even smart teams are doing.

I know of one project where the PM -- a longtime Googler -- has become infatuated with his own ideas to generate synergy across Google products. Before his product has even launched!

It's non-Googly. Products which rely on synergy don't focus on kicking ass. People pin their hopes on spillover from Google's other offerings.

The good thing about Google is that if a team loses focus, they will bleed engineering talent and top management will eventually crucify them. I hope that never changes.

Martin Day

If you think that Google can continue to grow and keep it's small company ethics you are kidding yourself.

Having experienced working for a company that grew a hundredfold overnight I know that you can't just stick your head in the sand and just wish that you were small again.

Big companies have big responsibilities and someone has to be there to steer the ship away from the iceberg and be prepared to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong and at the same time make sure the electricity bill is paid.

Someones has got to be there to assign the task that no one wants to do but nevertheless has to be done; and be able to tell the genius that their pet project is a waste of time instead of everyone pussy footing around claiming it is not their problem.

That having been said it is not a given that to be a big company you have to sell your soul - but to continue to develop you have to evolve.

Once a company has reached the stage where you have people who don't know and have never met the principals you have already lost that small time advantage.

Already Google has to be careful what it says because there are people just waiting to jump on every off the cuff remark.

History is littered with good engineering companies that failed to evolve.

Like any football team filled with the best players in the world, left to run themselves without good management they would be squabbling and bottom of any league.

In the words of Gil Scott-Heron 'since change is inevitable we should direct the change rather than simply continue to go through the change.'

To do that Google need to realise that it isn't one or the other but the goal is to strive for the perfect blend where good managers have the confidence to act in the background and harness the available talent and keep that talent focused on what is important. I think someone in Google probably already knows that.

Have fun growing!

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In my experience there isn't much of a problem yet with Lumbergs.


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the goal is to strive for the perfect blend where good managers have the confidence to act in the background and harness the available talent and keep that talent focused on what is important.

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firm and difficult to see nowadays companies that work like google, more like a friend said above, it is important to always keep the focus on work, even if the site emrpesa not rigid rules.

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