Google as Emergent Organization?

8 May 2011 at 11:26 pm 6 comments

| Peter Klein |

People are going to do what they are going to do, and you’re there to assist them. They don’t need me, they are going to do it anyway. They are going to do it for their whole lives. Maybe they could use a little help from me. At Google, we give the impression of not managing the company because we don’t really. It sort of has its own borg-like quality if you will. It sort of just moves forward.

This quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt is getting some buzz (e.g., Phil Bowermaster, via Ewin Barnett). It gives the impression of a wikified firm, or an emergent organization (to use Hayekian terminology). Indeed, Google makes extensive use of teams, information sharing, and delegation, and the firm has a fairly flat organizational structure. The “Ten Golden Rules” internal document, written in 2005 by Schmidt and Hal Varian (and quoted in the Google HBS case), says “the role of the manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator of decisions.” But there are decisions, and management, like George W. Bush, is the Decider. As with 3M, Google allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on their own projects. Still, these projects are subject to approval and monitoring. After all, the Borg believe in tight coordination!

Entry filed under: Ephemera. Tags: .

Knightian Uncertainty The Organizational Structure of Al Qaeda

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mg  |  9 May 2011 at 8:50 am

    Can you please give the reference to the specific HBS case? Thanks.

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  9 May 2011 at 9:20 am

    “Google Inc.” by Benjamin Edelman and Thomas Eisenmann, HBS 9-910-036. There are several other HBS cases on Google as well.

  • 3. Aidan  |  9 May 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Are there ‘decisions’ or are there rules? The former need managers at every ‘decision’ point; the latter only need a manager to articulate the rule once; he or she then monitors for rule infringement?

  • 4. Aidan  |  9 May 2011 at 12:10 pm

    This article by Ekkehart Schlicht on ‘consistency’ in organisations may also be of interest:

    http://ftp.iza.org/dp5644.pdf

  • 5. FC  |  9 May 2011 at 11:14 pm

    If my last workplace is typical, a manager should spend 50% of his time attempting to flirt with his subordinates and then interview them for a promotion.

  • 6. Team Building | REFERENCE BOOK  |  11 November 2011 at 8:19 am

    […] the organization. Commonly, the person who has been selected for the team building will helps the organization for organizational development. Corporate training is required for the corporate teams to build […]

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