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Google Case Study: Organization Culture and Project Management

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Google continues to excel at the front of its industry with its specialization in providing computer services that range from its powerful search engine, software and hardware, advertising campaign, and cloud computing. The reason that Google continues to be a monumental success is because of its employees that work there. Google looks for individuals that really think outside of the box and try to find solutions to ambiguous questions instead of the norm of just finding a solution to a normal problem.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Senior Vice President of the People Operations Division, listed thirteen qualities that he looked for in candidates to potentially work at Google. To list a few, Bock states that Google hires employees that possess “high cognitive ability” with additional qualities of “emergent leadership, analytical skills, and humility” to meet the “ridiculously high standards” of solving complex problems. With these characteristics in its employees, it sets the tone of its organizational culture the supports its motto of continuous excellence in innovation; however, Google’s organizational culture is not what you expect it to be. Google’s organizational culture “emphasizes change and direct social links within the firm” because theoretically speaking, having a “strong alignment between a firm’s organizational structure and its organizational culture can lead to higher levels of success”. If a company has the organizational culture and organizational structure cohesively working together then this will maximize its effectiveness in innovation to continuously seek new solutions to different problems. Google’s culture strongly influences the abilities of the company because it keep the culture “open, innovative, smart with emphasis on excellence, hands-on, and supportive of small-company-family rapport”. All of these characteristics of the organizational culture helps Google’s mission of creating excellence in innovation through giving and developing ideas that will quickly acknowledge the changing dynamics of its current market.

Google’s organizational culture is primarily contributed to the “people operations”, also known as human resources; however, Google wanted to “extend well beyond administering benefits and overseeing performance reviews” in their human resources division (Garvin). Typically, the role of Human Resources is just the process of recruiting highly qualified candidates that meet the specifications of the job and to also ensure employee welfare relations and welfare are met. Google one upped this definition by hiring a subdivision in their people operations called “people analytics” that wanted to “be hypothesis-driven to help solve company problems and questions with data”. From this subdivision, that is when they asked the big question: Do Managers Matter?

Seeing that Google asked this question, we should also look into the question what do managers even do? Managers have the responsibilities of ensuring that all employees are doing their jobs effectively and efficiently, stating their expectations and goals to people they are in charge, and emphasizing the goals of the company by making sure these goals are being at least met if not exceeded. But Google was having a very difficult time with their managers, specifically in the division of their engineers. The reason so is that engineers have their own style of doing things and they don’t like to be micromanaged. Businesses become inefficient with production when they have managers that micromanage; employees lose that creativity and innovation when their bosses are breathing down their necks. So in response to the gripes and complaints about Google’s engineers about management, Google launched Project Oxygen. Project Oxygen was trying to prove the point that the quality of management does not have a significant impact on performance in Google’s company. Google hired statisticians to collect data on the characteristics of high and low ranked managers and discovered that great managers actually make a difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of a company. These eight attributes are as follows:

  1. Is a good coach.
  2. Empowers the team and does no micromanage.
  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being.
  4. Is productive and results-oriented.
  5. Is a good communicator-listens and shares information.
  6. Helps with career development.
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team.

While this list seems somewhat obvious, Google did three things that greatly impacted their management style. Their findings were based upon people analytics which provided the project to be more credible with their findings because they had more employee feedback which bought more trust from the employees, thus conveying to managers to improve their current management style. The second thing was they saw the essential elements that a manager needs which are communication and coaching and the technical skills are the cherry on the top. It is important that managers have the technical skills to guide employees but this does not mean they will be a great manager. Lastly, their eight management qualities actually make a checklist for managers to follow. This checklist reminds managers daily of their expectations and what they should strive to become.

Looking at these eight management qualities, Google has accomplished a sustainable competitive advantage according to Michael Porter’s differential strategy. If Google’s managers abide by these eight qualities, Google can create a differential strategy and sustain their competitive advantage over other competitors. It is vital that Google continues to have this competitive advantage surrounded by their uniqueness and their adaptation to continually innovate. Google’s managers can significantly impact market penetration, market development, and product development if their leadership continues to “satisfy its mission and vision statement”. These growth strategies are “relatively equal in importance in Google’s business” because it provides the ability of the company to “expand and grow its global presence through the intensive strategies of market development and penetration”. With these different growth strategies in management positions, Google has the capability to stay in the front of the pack with this power which in turn gives the company more flexibility with financial growth.

Companies can emulate Google’s Project Oxygen eight attributes and might find success and some failure. Google’s eight attributes can build better leaders and managers but it is important to recognize the fact that great employees don’t always make great managers. Google’s perspective of an ideal manager needs to have great communication skills, think in the long term, and think the bigger picture on the betterment of the corporation. Other companies can easily match this scheme. Another thing that companies need to do like Google is facilitating the right format for feedback. Individuals want leaders that know the difference between coaching and micromanaging, because this equates to giving well balanced feedback back to individuals on their performance and what areas need improvement and what accomplishments deserve praise. Feedback needs to be focused on the actions rather than the personality traits of the individual to make them more open to receiving feedback.

Lastly, this strongly goes with getting to know your people. Understanding the people a manager is in charge of with their strengths and weaknesses will help provide better feedback as well as show a genuine understanding in their development. This will earn respect and loyalty too as Google has probably done with their discovery of those eight attributes of effective management. Now other technology companies that are in the same industry as Google might have difficulty in their organization to project themselves out in the marketplace because Google has done an incredible job staying in the front with their sustainable competitive advantage. It is almost as if Google has mastered the blue ocean strategy which other companies should strive to do. If companies master the blue ocean strategy, which Google is close to perfecting, they explore untapped market space that have opportunity for increase profits and company growth. Basically, they are competing in competitor-free markets and since Google is a multi-billion dollar industry they can easily thwart off other competition by buying them out.

Now Prasad Setty going forward should set his priorities around Project Oxygen. Specifically, he should have an intellectual curiosity of going further into actually understanding the eight attributes it takes to become a great manager. By having a deeper understanding of these eight attributes he can also identify potential pitfalls that these attributes can lead to. One pitfall is that an individual can have a very difficult time transitioning from a normal employee to a team leader. Companies might identify fantastic employees but they lack the necessary skills to lead effectively. It also applies to Google in that they need people from the outside that can talk their language, because people need to understand the specific ways of the company to have a better chance of being effective.

Another pitfall of these eight attributes is that they can be vague and not have a consistent approach to enhancing performance through management. Specifically, these attributes can be seen in a way that does not promote to employees what exactly the company wants from them and it even hinders their career development. It’s not much of a proactive approach for an innovative company because it is promoting the idea of employees to come to upper management with their problems. Thus, it can also be seen in a way that spends an incredible limited amount of time on managing than actual communication. Setty could also look into the lifecycle of managers in Google and see what are the defining phases and activities these managers need to do in order to accomplish a project. Managers need to have initiative, organization, planning, implementation, and closure when performing these projects because they are vital to project management.

That is why it is also critical for project managers to identify what projects are important to tackle first based upon time, money, and scope. The triple constraint dictates projects on what must be delivered in regards to time, cost, and scope while also meeting the demands of the customer. Other criteria that might be important to consider before attempting these projects might be looking at the resources that are available and the pros and cons of doing the project in the first place.

Personally, Setty should look at the typical time a manager spends with Google in respect to project management. This area is ambiguous and has many avenues to look into that can be contributed to the costs of the company that can make it more effective. Having great project managers to begin with can easily change the profile of a project and how it gets done. Google appears to have a track record of firing people in these powerful positions of management after they have spent certain of amount of time in the company. Google can find a better alternative to hiring managers so that they can be more effective in the long run. It might be a flaw in the design of their eight attributes that they created. It is not very proactive for managers to get involved with their subordinates but rather just a channel to reflect to upper leadership what is happening in the company. Thus, if Google readjusted how they promoted and trained managers and understood the pitfalls these managers could fall into, then it might be beneficial for them in the long run to continue to be innovative.

Works Cited

  1. Baer, Drake. “13 qualities Google looks for in job candidates.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 27 Apr. 2015, www.businessinsider.com/what-google-looks-for-in-employees-2015-4.
  2. Garvin, David. A. ‘Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?’. Harvard Business Review. 15 Oct 2013. Web. 30 Jan 2018.
  3. Smithson, Nathaniel. “Google’s Organizational Structure & Organizational Culture.” Panmore Institute, 28 Jan. 2017, panmore.com/google-organizational-structure-organizational-culture.
  4. Thompson, Andrew. “Google’s Generic Strategy & Intensive Growth Strategies.” Panmore Institute, 28 Jan. 2017, panmore.com/google-generic-strategy-intensive-growth-strategies.

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Google Case Study: Organization Culture And Project Management. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/google-case-study-organization-culture-and-project-management/
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Google Case Study: Organization Culture And Project Management. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/google-case-study-organization-culture-and-project-management/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021].
Google Case Study: Organization Culture And Project Management [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Dec 10 [cited 2021 Dec 1]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/google-case-study-organization-culture-and-project-management/
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