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Bureaucratic Google?  (View post)

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

Monday, May 12, 2008
14 years ago6,882 views


<< Early this month, Google released new cellphone software, with the code-name Grand Prix. A project that took just six weeks to complete, Grand Prix allows for fast and easy access to Google services like search, Gmail and calendars through a stripped-down mobile phone browser. (For now, it is tailored for iPhone browsers, but the plan is to make it work on other mobile browsers as well.)

Grand Prix was born when a Google engineer, tinkering on his own one weekend, came up with prototype code and e-mailed it to Vic Gundotra, a Google executive who oversees mobile products. Mr. Gundotra then showed the prototype to Mr. Schmidt, who in turn mentioned it to Mr. Brin. In about an hour, Mr. Brin came to look at the prototype. >>

Hashim Warren [PersonRank 4]

14 years ago #

so, not getting your pet idea implemented automatically means your employer is bureaucratic?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

(Added two updates.)

Andy Wong [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Is anyone going to blame the bureaucratic things in Google? and hope Google is forever young, and has no bureaucratic things? Hopefully you are not the one.

Business is business. You might agree. A major part of any business is risk management. Should Google be the exceptional angle? Different companies at different sizes and markets take different strategy and tactics of risk management. Startups have their own, and larger companies will have different ones.

It is not too difficult to understand, bureaucratic things sound like negative to new ideas, however, they are just part of the measurements and mechanisms of risk management. Startups risk loosing very little, however, obviously no startups want to remain as startup.

Maybe we could ask those leaving Google, should Google remove all those bureaucratic things for the benefits of Google and its users?

The ego system of the business world is comprehensive when tree grow larger, and spread seeds which grow elsewhere.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Ok wrt to Counterexample.. lets not 4get one thing- Vic was a former Platform Evangelism at Microsoft and a 15-year employee of MSFT.. so that is a brain drain in effect. net net to Google's Advantage..

As much as what engineers like to do and corporations can't function just without a level of bureaucracy. The issue with google is that the bureaucratic level is not built upof engineers who have moved to the Buisness side.Rather the bureaucratic is made of up of them MBA dude'w who have very little knowledge of Technology. Being in a former career within an F50 Corp, I call this the Nerd vs Geek syndrome

James [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Try working for a company that has 50 Assistant Vice-Presidents and 75,000 employees. Then the challenge is finding a project that will actually be launched within 4 years.

we [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

[put at-character here]James: MSFT?

Adam Lasnik [PersonRank 2]

14 years ago #

I know that newspapers gotta sell, well, newspapers, but I'm also happy to offer some contrasting thoughts of my own (with, admittedly, my own biases :D)

- I can only think of two people (and zero engineers) from my immediate team who've left Google in the two+ years I've been here.

- The number of *any engineers* I've worked substantively with at Google (and I work across a ton of teams) who've left Google... well, I couldn't even count them on one hand.

- I have not personally found bureaucracy to really hinder my ability to get things done here. For example, I recently spearheaded a webmaster online chat with hundreds of attendees, and while it took a LOT of time to organize, it was all "How can we make this a great chat?" and not "How do we do a purchase order for Webex, get signoff on the main presentation and get four managers' permissions?" and so on?

- It seems that people are forgetting that we have 18,000+ employees. I think the HR folks would bonk me on the head if I gave specific attrition rates, but we're talking *small*. If you look at the engineering attrition rate, IMHO you're talking *really small*..

* * *

Do people face frustrations here?
Is the company getting bigger and is some bureaucracy creeping in?
Do some engineers miss the "small company feel" and thus leave?

Yes, yes, yes. But I wish more folks would put it all in perspective. As much as I love working at Google and really dig my colleagues, I've been historically annoyed with all the breathless hype about the company... and so, too, is the anti-hype pretty tiresome.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> Is anyone going to blame the bureaucratic things in Google? and
> hope Google is forever young, and has no bureaucratic things?
> Hopefully you are not the one.

Andy, if you refer to me, well I was quoting from another article – though I think the one entity you may accuse of hoping Google stays "forever young" is Google themselves, as they said in their IPO letter in 2004:

<<Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.>>

> Maybe we could ask those leaving Google, should
> Google remove all those bureaucratic things for the
> benefits of Google and its users?

Yes, I think an important question to ask is: which bureacratic things are needed and necessary; which kind of company size is needed and necessary; etc. (Though note the word bureaucracy in itself may already define only the *unnecessary* management and process, depending on which definition you choose; e.g. #3 is "An administrative system in which the need or inclination to follow rigid or complex procedures impedes effective action.") For instance, YouTube was a smaller sized company but it evolved into a competitor to Google Video that Google apparently considered more successful, or else they likely would not have bought it and dropped prioritizing their own video offering as an upload and community site. (Which triggers yet another question: does Google even care whether they just cherry pick the start ups or develop something in house, as they have the cash to buy other companies competing in their fields?)

Niraj Sanghvi [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

>>Adam writes that companies inevitably change “as they grow and age. They lose their coolness, they bureaucratize.”

It's always an interesting tightrope a company has to walk as they grow larger. Increasing in size means there have to be more controls internally, because if people could just throw together projects/experiments in a very short amount of time and push them out, users start complaining if they don't scale, don't perform well, or are buggy. But without more internal controls you can't easily account for those things as you grow in size and build services on top of services.

Andy Wong [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

"Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one."

Google now is still not a conventional company, however, even with such intension, the growth of Google is still subject to many business rules, principle, and regulations etc.

Philipp, I am also one of the google fans since 0 years ago when I knew it would become the dominant force of the internet. The question regarding to the question about what bureaucracy is, is more like the question about what good or bad is. We need to come to balance of different points of view.

Many of the posts here is more about the feels of brilliant engineers who has a lot brilliant idea. However, business is business. When the funding is from VC, the company has this way of risk management, and when the funding is from share holders, the company had that way of risk management along with more regulations. Brilliant ideas may have good money prospect, but may also be risky.

Let me make it this way: when a brilliant idea success, share holders and the engineers will be awarded generally. However, when a brilliant idea fail, share holders lose money, and the engineers lose nothing or little.

The good thing is, in the US, brilliant ideas won't be wasted, if the ideas could not get a thoroughfare in a big company, the engineers may leave with the ideas and make new startups. This is a really comprehensive ego system.

Martin Porcheron [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Google has had to change where change is necessary. Personally, I think that the process descried is not very beureaucratic at all when you consider what _must_ happen for Google to operate properly.
Employee -> Executive -> CEO/Founder

That is what? Three levels, of which two levels are executive and none are middle managers (much better than a scenario where he showed his manager who showed his manager, who showed his manager, who showed the exec).

With 18,000 employees, I don't think going to one of the execs when one employee has created something is bereaucratic, especially when the communication between Employee & Exec. was email.

A googler [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

It's also worth remembering that this seems to be a Mountain View thing. VC money flows like water in the valley, but many Google engineers are now outside of Mountain View.

The startup opportunities in, say, Zurich or London are much smaller and tougher than in the bay area. Unsurprisingly, I have only heard of one guy leaving Google to found a startup in Zurich, and I think the decision to leave was independent of what to do afterwards in his case.

J. McNair [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

[put at-character here]A Googler
Brilliant point. How many HIGH PROFILE people (engineers, execs, managers) have left Google's many other campuses worldwide?

Also, I think Google could use a little MORE resource allocation discipline. Things like Google Video vs. Youtube or the 57 different Google Talks shouldn't happen. I mean, cool ideas are great, as long as they don't overlap things google already does. If they do, the existing project should be evolved into whatever cool new direction the engineers came up with.

Don't forget that some high-profile departures came from acquisitions or internal projects that Google gave up on. Remember how Blogger stagnated for 2 or 3 years? To be fair, Blogger got awesome about a year after they rebooted it. And how's Grandcentral doing? Marratech, Dodgeball, Zingku, and Jaiku, anyone? Don't forget Google Video, Google Answers and GDrive.

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