x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Google's breath of fresh air for management

The Life: The big brains at Google have now come up with their own management manifesto.

Google employees gather for lunch in the company's main courtyard in Mountain View, California.
Google employees gather for lunch in the company's main courtyard in Mountain View, California.

Bookstore shelves around the world are stuffed with tomes on effective management written by people you've never heard of with titles that do not mean anything in the real world.

Would it not be more compelling to hear from one of the world's most innovative companies, one known for being a great place to work as well as an earnings machine?

Well, as The New York Times reported last week, the big brains at Google have now come up with their own management manifesto.

In a typically data-heavy analysis, dubbed Project Oxygen, engineers at the search giant mined performance reviews and nominations of top managers to come up with their list of top tips for effective managers.

There was no mention of famed Google perks such as a decompression capsule, a slide for those who need to commute between floors, or all the food and drink you can stomach. In fact, one of the most surprising things about the list is how mundane many of the entries seem.

Behold Google's top eight good behaviours for managers:

1) Be a good coach

2) Empower your team and don't micromanage

3) Express interest in team members' success and personal well-being

4) Don't be a sissy: be productive and results-oriented

5) Be a good communicator and listen to your team

6) Help your employees with career development

7) Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

8) Have key technical skills

But what did catch Google a bit off guard was the ranking of the directives. During the company's ascent over the past 13 years, it has often been noted how Google excels at hiring talented people and letting them get on with what they do best. The better engineers necessarily got promoted and subsequently helped guide those younger and less talented.

"In the Google context, we'd always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you," Laszlo Bock, Google's vice president for "people operations" told the Times. "It turns out that's absolutely the least important thing."

There were a few other findings that companies of all orientations may find useful.

Google, which conducts performance reviews quarterly rather than annually as most companies do, found major disparities in how employees rank their bosses - much wider swings than other categories such as whether they felt a connection to the company's mission or actually liked their co-workers.

As such, Google determined that managers were the most important factor in determining employee performance and how they felt about their job.

Armed with that information, Google then began trying to instil the best qualities in the managers who were getting the worst reviews. The company claims it recorded significant improvement in 75 per cent of those managers.

As usual, it appears many of us can learn a thing or two just by Googling.

breagan@thenational.ae