Alphabet Google: Rambling, Scrambling, and Managing

February 18, 2021

The Google — actually Alphabet — has been beavering away in Silicon Valley. So much to do and so little time. First, the company caught the attention of gamers with its interesting Stadia crawfishing. Hey, that could be a video game similar to Angry Birds. The GOOG does not innovate; the Google imitates and duplicates. That’s definitely been a secret sauce in the instant messaging department.

Next, the company cut a deal with Australia. Isn’t that the stomping ground for Rupert Murdoch, the bright white light and clear blue flame thinker for news? Mr. Rupert has captured headlines with analyses by the laser intellect of a “real news” generator. You can read that remarkable analysis here.

And the cherry on top of the Googley banana split is reorganizing its artificial intelligence unit. The story “Google to Reorganize AI Teams in Wake of Researcher’s Departure” states:

Google has sought to diffuse employee rancor stemming from the acrimonious departure of a prominent Black researcher, Timnit Gebru. The responsible AI teams will roll up to Marian Croak, a Black Google executive who currently serves as a vice president of engineering focused on site-reliability matters. Croak will report to Jeff Dean, the senior vice president of Google AI.

Each of these is a potential top tier business school case study. That seems unlikely, however, in the aftermath of the Covid thing’s impact on some universities and advanced degrees programs. Consider these business implications of each of these examples of stellar management certitude:

  1. Stadia seems to have arrived and departed much like Dodgeball and Web Accelerator. Quick decisions are one hallmark of thoughtful, organized business actions.
  2. The “pay to play” model seems to provide incentive to large publishers to accept Google’s cash. Google’s reluctance to pay for news, its saber rattling, its posturing by the company’s Australian executives, vaporized with what I call a Rupert deal.
  3. The reorganization of Google AI has more to do with preserving the Google status quo than substantive change. Isn’t Dr. Jeff Dean still in charge? Wasn’t he the wizard who added an accelerant to the Gibiru affair.

Let’s step back. In the space of a week, Google — actually Alphabet — has abandoned the science club approach to reality. Google is killing products after praising the workers soon to be terminated. Google is buying cooperation from the inspiration behind today’s Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Plus Google is trying to deal with employee unrest with an old school management technique: Shuffling deck chairs. (Hey, I did not mention the Titanic. You thought that. Come on. Admit it.)

What have we learned? One can view Google’s actions as brilliant managerial execution. On the other hand, Google seems to be showboating. There is also a middle ground. The new Google just does not know what to do: Be forceful, spend money, reorganize, and demonstrate the values of managers who really miss the high school science club meetings from a past long dead but not forgotten.

Stephen E Arnold, February 18, 2021


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