One of the biggest lessons I learned during my studies in Business Administration in Rotterdam originated from a book I studied as part of my doctoral thesis, which was Managing the Resource Allocation Process from Harvard Business School professor Joseph Bower. In his book, Bower made the point that management’s role would increasingly change from managing the content (‘the what’) to managing the context. That is, the context in which front-line managers would deal with day-to-day business, which would become increasingly complex due to a business environment which would become less-and-less predictable. BTW Bower published his book in 1970.
This context consists of a number of things that Umair Haque calls a company’s DNA, the way a company manages’ and organizes’ production and consumption. In his video reply to one of the commenters, Umair talks about the different DNA of Google:
- Open source and P2p principles of production, e.g. the 20% rule where Google employees get to work on things they choose for 20% of their time;
- A flat organization with a minimum of hierarchy, e.g. 360 degrees evaluations between managers and team members
Some would call this anarchy, but it’s an anarchy Google’s management deliberately chose. A different era calls for different management techniques to maximize value production. In short, Google is one example of doing things differently, and I think we can learn a lot from them.
Just as one of Google’s former engineering managers Kevin Scott, I don’t want to join the ‘Fast Company’s’ of this world in blindly romanticizing ‘the Google story’. But Kevin’s view of how things at Google went illustrates another interesting point:
“The magic of Google is that tearing to shreds, even when founders are shredding, doesn’t often mean outright project cancellation.”
Now, how many big, established companies you know can say the same thing?
Bower was so right back in ’70, and Google is one inspiring example illustrating his point.