Google's quest to build a better boss

Project Oxygen

 Their mission was to devise something far more important to the future of Google Inc. than its next search algorithm or application.

They wanted to build better bosses. So, as only a data-mining giant like Google can do, it began analysing performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. They correlated phrases, words, praise and complaints. Later that year, the “people analytics” teams at the company produced what might be called the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers. Now, brace yourself.

Because the directives might seem so forehead-slappingly obvious — so, well, duh — it’s hard to believe that it took the mighty Google so long to figure them out: “Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.” “Help your employees with career development.” “Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.”  The list goes on, reading like a whiteboard gag from an episode of “The Office.” “My first reaction was, that’s it?” says Laszlo Bock, Google Vice President for “people operations,” which is Googlespeak for human resources. But then, Bock and his team began ranking those eight directives by importance. And this is where Project Oxygen gets interesting.

For much of its 13-year history, particularly the early years, Google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: Leave people alone. Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, they’ll ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place. But Bock’s group found that technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer code in your sleep — ranked dead last among Google’s big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers. “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,” says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

Project Oxygen doesn’t fit neatly into the usual Google story line of hits (like its search engine) and misses (like the start last year of Buzz, its stab at social networking). Management is much squishier to analyze, after all, and the topic often feels a bit like golf. You can find thousands of tips and rules for how to become a better golfer, and just as many for how to become a better manager. Most of them seem to make perfect sense.

Project Oxygen is noteworthy for a few reasons, according to academics and experts in this field.

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019


Get real-time news updates, views and analysis on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Deccanherald.com/news/lok-sabha-elections-2019 


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #DHPoliticalTheatre for live updates on the Indian general elections 2019.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry