Category Archives: Google

Eric Schmidt on Management at Google

   
Eric Schmidt speaks at the Management Lab Summit on May 29, 2008 in Half Moon Bay, California. Conversation with Professor Gary Hamel.

  • “The culture can be thought of as a ship and iterate culture with transparency for what people are doing. And that model scales pretty well.”
  • “I have two jobs, two roles. The first is to make sure every issue that is important is really debated to find, not the common outcome, but the best decision… second thing is to put pressure to make it happen quick.”
  • “it [managing better] starts with listening, it has to do with curiosity
  • “everything has to be based on some fact”
  • “It’s only about the people.” [respect for people is critical, Google really acts as though the people are their most important asset – John].
  • “What is the number 1 goal of the company? It is end user happiness with search. What is the number 2 goal? It’s end user happiness with advertising. What is the number 3 goal? The construction of the Google network of partners to effectuate the first two. What is the number 4 goal? To grow and scale the business… You will eventually get extraordinary returns for your shareholders and maximize advertiser happiness if all those things happen… There are a lot of business executives that get confused on what the goal is and they think that shareholder value is the goal. Shareholder value is a consequence of the goal.”

Related: Eric Schmidt Podcast on Google Innovation and EntrepreneurshipInterview with Google CEO Eric SchmidtInnovation at GoogleGoogle: Experiment Quickly and OftenMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationGoogle Management by Gary HamelLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview Webcast

Lame Move by Google

Google does great things and makes good decisions most often. However a recent move on their part has ended very lamely. As part of what their 10th anniversary celebration they provided a search of the 2001 index (the oldest index they could find to search now). This was extremely cool.

Now if you go to find it so you can try it out you will be disappointed. Search for it on Google you will find a link to Google Search 2001 which gives you a page that says: “The page – www.google.com/search2001.html – does not exist.” Is it amazingly lame that Google took the search down, has it has the first result on searches, and has no explanation on that page of what it was about.

It would be cool for them to leave it up (it was interesting). And I would think they could make a great deal of money showing ads (I can’t remember if they did show ads). But not leaving a page at that address (which was linked to over 95,000 times) explaining what the page did and that it is now offline is very lame. Breaking 95,000 links is bad enough for some pointy haired boss that believes the internet is made up of tubes but for a well run internet company to do that is pitiful.

This move shows Google in a similar light as Gap when managers shut down the Gap’s web site for days (in 2005). Google failed when exiting the video business (DRM issues), then realized their mistake and recovered. The fix for this would take all of 1 hour. Someone just has to put up a page discussing what the page was for and that the search has been discontinued.

But really they should explore if it is better to just make it live – maybe it doesn’t but I would certainly want to look into that option. If not, I would put up some interesting results from the experiment (though if the choice is just a 1 hour solution or nothing then just put up a page in 1 hour) and link to commentary about the search and interesting things people found. This would be an interesting task for an intern, or someone else, and could provide an interesting and popular page. but most importantly at least not breaking 95,000 links (plus all those who go to the page from search results pages) is the minimum Google should do.

Related: web pages should live foreverSearch Share Data Checking the ACSIWays for Google to Improve Continue reading

The Power of Small Teams

The power of small teams by Avi Muchnick

Choose a project that is simple to implement. Don’t try to create a complex suite of applications… Focus on solving a single problem. Philip Kaplan made email more efficient to use by stalling it instead of managing it. Dead simple approach and a great idea.Take the easier approach when possible.

Choose people that can wear multiple hats. Can your designer code? Can your programmer manage a community? Can your marketing guru fund raise? Can one guy do it all?

All documentation should be available via a central location. A wiki can work really well for this purpose. Good documentation lessens the loss from communication failures.

Arrange your workspace in common areas. Segregating your team in different offices is a recipe for lost communication data and with it, a need for additional people. You’d be surprised at how many roles can be shared by multiple people, so long as they have the ability to communicate instantly and unimpeded with each other. Put people between walls, and those shared tasks will need to be managed by additional team members.

Amazon and Google do a lot with small teams and I think they have it right. I have worked on small IT teams for several years now and find it great. Combine with agile management methods small teams allow for great focus (you are naturally guided toward appropriate project sizes instead of huge monster projects), great results and joy in work. I have no desire to work in large teams.

Related: Team HandbookMeasuring and Managing Performance in OrganizationsKeeping Track of Improvement OpportunitiesCurious Cat Management Articles

Google Knows it is a 2.0 World

You can accomplish a great deal by just talking to people. Google Public Relations:

I did not really expect it, but the next day I got a call from Jeffrey Korn at Google California. He explained that he was the one responsible for building the Google Bookmarks and Google Web History tools. The problem with my extension was something I hadn’t imagined: a scaling problem. Hehe, Google had scaling problems :-).

The gBrain extension creates a lot of bookmarks. Several thousands a month. And the Google bookmarks system was never made with this amount in mind. What made things worse (and I didn’t knew that), the bookmarks are connected to the normal web search. Whenever you use the web search, it checks it against your Google bookmarks. You can easily imagine what problems can come up when you have a several 10 or even 100 thousands of bookmarks…

Jeffery also made a few suggestions how the extension could be changed to make use of their Web history service instead of the bookmarks system. This would avoid the scaling problems. I may consider it some day.

But why am I telling this? Because I’m amazed how Google handled this. Instead of just blocking my extension at their side, or sending me a cease and desist letter they contacted me and asked.

Good for Google. I do find it a bit funny they had a lawyer contact the guy but still Google’s reaction was much better than most companies would be. Companies like Google, Amazon, Lego, New York Times are taking advantage of technology to leverage community efforts to improve the value of their service to customers. This is an important innovation management needs to acknowledge and manage. Or you can be like the poorly managed journal publishers or music industry that are destroying their organizations futures.

Related: Funding Google Gadget DevelopmentInnovative Marketing Podcast (Lego)Innovation at Google

Deming’s 14 Points (for software development)

Deming’s 14 points (for software development) by Jamie Dinkelacker (Geo/Maps Engineering Program Manager at Google Inc. Focus on lean principles and agile practices for software development):

W. Edwards Deming’s work on quality, while widely misinterpreted and misapplied in the USA, was nonetheless a watershed that Japanese companies, especially Toyota, took to heart…
Below are Deming’s 14 points accompanied by commentary related to software development.

Design quality in, don’t use inspection to find errors. Mistake proof the system.

In a fearful environment, workers do not operate in the organization’s best interest; instead their energies are by necessity focused on self-protection.

Mistakes typically come from bad systems not bad workers. Don’t exhort people to work harder or smarter; instead create a more intelligent workflow and system tailored tot he essential nature of software development as human collaboration (not just coordination) such that people can excel.

A good read. Also a good blog on management improvement ideas and software development (though not very active). See my Deming on Management resource where I try to explain what Dr. Deming actually said and meant and dispel some misconceptions.

Related: Dr. Deming’s 14 PointsDeming’s Ideas at Markey’s Audio VisualLean, Toyota and Deming for Software DevelopmentGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

User Happiness with Search Engines

Awhile back I wrote about why I didn’t think the American Customer Satisfaction Index claim that Yahoo beat Google for customer satisfaction was evidence of a broken indicator. Well here is another indicator, but this time it puts Google clearly in 1st place, while Yahoo has been improving: Search Engines: Intense Competition Drives Better User Experiences

In the December 2007 Keynote study, Google makes a clean sweep of first place in all four key index rankings: Overall Customer Experience, Brand Impact, Future Usage Impact, and Customer Satisfaction. Yahoo! takes second place in every category, and Ask.com, MSN, and AOL follow in order. It is almost without precedent in Keynote studies of any industry that the rankings are so rigidly stratified (see Figure One). Typically, there will be some shuffling up or down in one or several of the indices. But in the past two studies, the competitors finished in rank order, straight across the board.

Google still has plenty of room to improve (for one example, their blog search is still very poor). And Yahoo is better than many people realize. But I think Google is still clearly better from my experience and looking at the available data (Google keeps gaining market share for one import piece of data).

Related: Search Share Data, Checking the ACSIMeeting Like GoogleImprove Google

Prediction Markets with Google Employees

Another interesting experiment from Google: Using Prediction Markets to Track Information Flows: Evidence from Google

In Google’s terminology, a market asks a question (e.g., “how many users will Gmail have?”) that has 2‐5 possible mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive answers (e.g., “Fewer than X users”, “Between X and Y”, and “More than Y”). Each answer corresponds to a security that is worth a unit of currency (called a “Gooble”) if the answer turns out to be correct (and zero otherwise). Trade is conducted via a continuous double auction in each security.

Google’s prediction markets are reasonably efficient, but did exhibit four specific biases: an
overpricing of favorites, short aversion, optimism, and an underpricing of extreme outcomes.

Interesting paper. I would guess most readers of this blog won’t be able to apply prediction markets to there workplace in the short term but never-the-less I find the paper interesting.

Related: Management is PredictionGoogle Experiments Quickly and OftenSecrets of the World’s Best Companies

The Google Way: Give Engineers Room

The Google Way: Give Engineers Room

Google engineers are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. This means that if you have a great idea, you always have time to run with it.

These grouplets have practically no budget, and they have no decision-making authority. What they have is a bunch of people who are committed to an idea and willing to work to convince the rest of the company to adopt it.

Consider the collection of engineers who wanted to promote “agile programming” inside the company. Agile programming is a product development approach that incorporates feedback early and often, and was being done in a few scattered parts of the organization.

The Agile grouplet formed to try to take this idea and spread it throughout the organization. It did so by banding together and reaching out to as many groups as it could to teach the new process. It created “Agile Office Hours” when you could stop by and ask questions about the process. It handed out books and gave internal talks on the topic. It attended staff meetings and created the concept of the “Agile Safari,” in which you could volunteer to work for a time in groups that were using Agile, to see how it ticks.

Related: Google Software EngineeringAgile Software DevelopmentAgile ManagementManaging InnovationLarry Page and Sergey Brin WebcastGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

Search Share Data – Checking the ACSI

Last month, in a long post criticizing the ACSI I took issue with, among other things, the implications being drawn from an ACSI rating. The ACSI rating of Yahoo was higher than that of Google (though statistically insignificantly so). Anyway, here is some new data on search volumes of the leading providers:

Top 5 Search Providers for August 2007, Ranked by Searches (U.S.)

Provider Searches (000) Year over Year Growth Share of Searches
1. Google Search 4,199,495 39.8% 53.6%
2. Yahoo! Search 1,561,903 8.9% 19.9%
3. MSN/Windows Live Search 1,011,398 69.8% 12.9%
4. AOL Search 435,088 32.4% 5.6%
5. Ask.com Search 136,853 0.0% 1.7%

Source: Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Search

So Google grew 39.8% year over year and Yahoo grew 8.9% year over year. Google now has 53.6% of the total searches. Granted this is limited data but it seems to confirm that Google is in fact continuing to increase their lead in search volume. Practically all evidence seems to support this belief – the ACSI seems to be the exception. Which might indicate great insight provided by the ACSI that everyone else is missing. Or it might show ACSI results are doing a poor job of providing a useful measure of customer satisfaction with search engines. I go with the second.

Related: posts on using data effectivelyWebsite DataUnderstanding Dataposts on Google managementCurious Cat Management Improvement Search

Kaizen – Yahoo Mail Style

Yahoo Mail Innovates, Gmail Stagnates

Yahoo Mail has begun rolling out of beta after releasing an onslaught of innovative feature improvements along the way. On the other hand, a whopping three years into their beta release, Gmail remains one of the most popular but stagnant web-based beta email apps around.

To me Yahoo is really continually improving the service, not innovating. Still an interesting exploration of visible improvement.

Related: Kaizen OnlineKaizen definitionInnovation ExamplesGoogle Innovation webcast