Sunday, March 13, 2011

Management ala Google?

Adam Bryant wrote a good article in today's business section of The New York Times. It appears that Google, which has been promoting people into management based on their technical skills, ended up with a bunch of managers who were lousy at managing people. Go figure!

This situation gave rise to Project Oxygen, which sounds like a pretty exhaustive analytical study of Google employees aimed at discovering how they want their bosses to behave. The findings, as reported in the Times, revealed the following 8 behaviors in priority order:
  1. Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and positive. Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees' specific strengths.

  2. Empower your team and don't micromanage. Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make stretch assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

  3. Express interest in team members' success and personal well-being. Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work. Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.

  4. Don't be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented. Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information. Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

  6. Help your employees with career development.

  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team. Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy. Involve the team in setting and evolving the team's vision and making progress towards it.

  8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team. Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed. Understand the specific challenges of the work.

This all seems very basic, although it is worth noting that technical expertise came in dead last. But I wouldn't want to have to parse some of this advice. "Don't be a sissy?" Really? Nevertheless, Google says it bumped up the performance of three-quarters of its managers using these rules. Read the entire article here...

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