How Google Works — and you Can, Too

How Google Works proposes to explain the systems and methods that make Google so successful — but of course we all know that the secret sauce is to make lots of money (which the authors gleefully acknowledge)! And that’s what the search engine does. Still, we have all seen work places spoiled by riches, where mediocre players were allowed to stay and hire more mediocre players, so Google must be doing something right. Here are a few ideas that caught my attention in the book:

  • Encourage employees to work on what we used to call skunkworks projects — but don’t reward them directly for successes that come out of such projects. Glory accrues when the next assignments are meted out but there is no direct reward to suggestions or improvements. It’s a good way to reinforce self-motivation.
  • Write a user manual for yourself. I loved that idea, which is to share, as candidly as possible, the best way for others to work with you, whether it is to be forceful, or use data, or come to office hours.
  • Post everyone’s objectives (Google calls them OKRs, Objectives and Key Results) publicly. This makes it very easy to see what may motivate them.
  • To resolve tough differences of opinion, hold a daily meeting (and set a deadline) until the issue gets resolved. The sheer drudgery of repeating the same arguments will motivate participants to move towards an agreement.
  • Ask for an opinion post-interview. Google is famously obsessed by hiring, and famous for, historically at least, holding scores of interviews. Data has now told them that interviews beyond #4 don’t help make a decision (yeah!) so they now ask interviewers to give a 1-4 rating on each candidate, and compare with past scores to fight bias.
  • To find the strong people in an organization, find one and ask him or her to name others. I thought that was an excellent suggestion when taking over a new team.

What are your favorite people management techniques?

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