Google and Its New Management Method: Pundits Throwing Punches

April 10, 2011

I read the modest flurry of quasi-MBA analyses triggered by “Larry Page’s First Blunder”. I liked the word “first” because it implies that Mr. Page and his co-founder have been management “perfect 10s” since 1998. I thought about pointing out that the present range of challenges Google faces is a consequence of earlier blunders.

But I wish to ignore that admittedly trivial point.

The Computerworld article focuses on the idea of linking a Googler’s annual hefty cash bonus to becoming or coding social apps, systems, solutions, etc. I don’t know about you, but I have a number of high powered technologists working on projects. None of these individuals is what I would describe at fraternity or sorority president material.

Last week, at lunch, Dr. Tyra Oldham, one of my colleagues, pointed out that the three nerds and myself constituted a small world of insiders which was pointedly anti-social. In fact, as I recall, she said, “You are in some weird alternate universe where normal people don’t go.” In addition to a PhD in operations, Dr. Oldham holds an MBA degree and is well qualified to comment on management-related behaviors.


Dr. Oldham pointed out to some of the engineering team, “You are not social.” With considerable pride, the engineering team agreed. One asked, “How can one be an excellent engineer by being more social?’ Dr. Oldham shook her head. We think it meant that the three engineers were in need of social remediation. Good luck with that.

That’s an important point to consider: expected behaviors regarding “social.”

I live in rural Kentucky, commune with large boxer dogs, and spend my time in front of my various computing devices. As I look around my office, I count on April 10, 2011, 14 multi-processor machines, an assortment of electronic components and gadgets, the two large dogs, and white boards covered with diagrams. I have a cleared space for my new Sandy Bridge machine which will arrive on Monday. (Hooray.) My office bookcases are stuffed with technical manuals, cables, and “stuff.” If you know where to look, you will see a container of IBM’s weird computer fasteners from the now retired NetFinity 5500. Ah, nostalgia! To me, my little world is plenty social, thank you.


The film “Revenge of the Nerds” does contain elements of truth that age and money cannot alter with alacrity.

Now if Dr. Tyra Oldham were correct, a financial incentive might get my attention for a while, but I think I would drift away from social innovation. Money is not what makes and its Managing Director go. Social is, at this time, not that interesting to me because Facebook and other services have okay systems. Maybe there is something that might catch my attention? However, I have personal projects that are going to get my attention and my time. Weaponized information, for instance, is really quite promising here in Harrod’s Creek. Curious? Well, lots of people are and many are writing checks to understand the system, method, and technology. Social? Not so much for me and some of my team.

Now back to the Computerworld, here’s the passage that may echo through the online grape vine:

Call it the “Spam Grandma for Cash” program. Page also wants, no doubt, to apply internal peer pressure to employees directly involved in social features to get off their butts and beat Facebook. Imagine the Google social teams huddled together in the cafeteria trying to ignore icy stares from all directions — including the kitchen staff. I appreciate the new chief’s aggressiveness, but Page’s bonus incentive on social success is a lousy idea.

I like the world “lousy”.

And Computerworld provides a number of reasons why the “social to bonus” link is not a good idea. Read them. Make up your own mind. In my opinion, none of the “reasons” focuses on the core of the problem; namely these three issues or realities:

First, Google is a company spawned in a period when competitors were experiencing portal fever, HP (the owner of was even more clueless than usual, and there was a lot of technology available which was being ignored. Now Google faces competition without the 1998 environment. In short, Google is just another company trying to close the gap with social category darlings. Facebook is just one planet, gentle reader, not the entire social universe.

Second, the Google engineering environment rewards the types of people Dr. Tyra Oldham gently mocked at lunch. My engineers and I agreed with her. One problem: We are not going to change. Why? Money is not a main driver. I know it sounds weird in today’s economic firestorm. We prefer to do interesting and challenging work. Money works for Wall Street. It does not work in’s corner of the world.

It follows then that if Google has some folks who share the metal set up, Google’s engineers won’t change too quickly either. If there is change, like those “snap back memory metals,” the Google engineers will go back to what makes each engineery. Social, while useful, may not have enough magnetism to cause a permanent change. I would figure out how to get the bonus money and then go back to what really interested me. If the social thing became to onerous, I would quit and go where work matched my interests. But that’s just me.

Third, there is the thorny challenge of time. Google is not able to react quickly. Remember. Google did get an early start with Orkut in the social space. Google bought JotSpot, a company with technology that could have brought Facebook wall features to Orkut without too much heavy lifting. The  mismatch between what was needed to make Orkut more than a T shirt slogan for some interesting people in Brazil marginalized Orkut. Sure there were other factors, but Google was an early entrant and is now looking at tail lights. Social is more than search. Search is not necessarily social. Facebook, for example, has leveled up so search is a child of the Facebook social ecosystem. Not an easy mental shift for any company, including Google to make.

I have tried to flag some other management actions. In case you mentioned these write ups, here are three:

  1. Google and Its new Management Method: Reorganization
  2. Google and Its New Management Method: Facebook
  3. Google and Its New Management Method: Employee Attrition

You may also find Google: Back to the Engineers germane as well. The drum beat is consistent. The types of changes underway at Google are likely to be disruptive within the company, among users, and among partners. Familiar faces will continue to go through a malfunctioning Star Trek transporter. One example may be the new role for Marissa Mayer, according to “Marissa Mayer Bypassed as Google Appoints Ne Head of Local and Commerce”. She is one executive caught like a high school prom flower as the “page” is turned in the Google year book.

I commented on the engineer’s folly of recapturing a past that is 12 years removed from the legal hassles, competitive challenges, ageing technology, and weird open-is-really-closed logic of Android. This write up is New Google CEO Page Searching for the Past.

Stephen E Arnold, April 10, 2011

Freebie unlike some of the blue-chip and azure-chip blather from the cheap seats.


One Response to “Google and Its New Management Method: Pundits Throwing Punches”

  1. Confluence: DuoDecad PMO on July 13th, 2011 6:06 am

    Nagy vállalati struktúrák…

    Google Its New management method…

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