question archive A founders' letter from Google, Inc

A founders' letter from Google, Inc

Subject:Operations ManagementPrice: Bought3

A founders' letter from Google, Inc., in 2004 states, "Serving our end users is at the heart of what we do and remains our number one priority" ( That core value is evident in everything Google, Inc., does to meet its users' needs and to keep the company on the frontier of the human/technology interface. In organizations such as Google, well-defined values and a clear vision influence the level of commitment and quality of work that is done at every level of the company. Google was designed to be a collaborative environment embedded in a flat organization (rather than hierarchical). With its single-minded vision, Google has been able to focus on its core business of technology innovation. One of the best examples of Google's innovation-focused, customer-oriented, solutions-minded, collaborative approach to projects is "20 Percent Time," a program that has been in place since the company's inception. Google employees are essentially given one day each week to work on projects that are novel, experimental, and even outside the primary areas of each employee's expertise. Teams are then formed with people who are passionate about similar concepts, ideas, and objectives regardless of whether they are in the same department or workgroup. While 20% of the week is spent on these projects by design, it is important to recognize that the culture of the company is what drives this value system that has produced technological successes like Gmail and Google Docs. But an innovative culture does not negate the need for structure and planning. Projects must be documented and managed to justify the time employees are investing in them. They must show tangible results. Thus, autonomy is balanced with accountability. Google's culture also highlights an incredible work ethic, healthy competition, and a passion for problem-solving that permeates the organization. All of these qualities help to form the community's bond and point everyone toward the same goal: to serve the end user. How they do it, though, is the interesting part. According to online resource TechCrunch, Google's corporate engine runs on innovation. Innovation, therefore, is the purpose and the driver of both its project management and 20 Percent Time program. From the smaller, faster teams brought together by 20 Percent Time to the larger, more traditional teams that work on the higher-profile projects that are driving the business results, Google is pacing the industry in output. That pace, it seems, combined with the innovative core that lies at the heart of the company, is helping Google stay true to its number one priority. In that regard, Google's project management strategy is as it should be at every company: a force that ties every member of the corporate community to the primary organizational mission while defining efficient, timely, valuable, and relevant strategies that produce results. 


Case Study Discussion Questions 

1. What are your reactions to this case? 

2. How do you see Google's 20 Percent Time program fitting within its business model? How can Google justify allowing its employees to spend that much time away from their core functions? 

3. What project management fundamentals do you think are most important to the execution of 20 Percent Time? 

4. What competitive advantages does Google possess that might make the project management approach to 20 Percent Time impossible at other companies?



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