Review: How Google Works

Quick Hit

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg paints a detailed picture of each executive’s experience working at Google. The text covers a lot of topics that are important considerations for all businesses, including: leadership, culture, hiring, communication, product development, and organizational strategy. In the past, I have questioned if Google’s success is derived from its team of “smart creatives” or just a product of its supremely talented founders. The book makes a good case for the former and shares a lot of interesting stories and perspectives from two executives that were at the heart of the company’s epic rise. There are some actionable recommendations in the book that are counter to what a lot of us learned in business school and I think most leaders would benefit from reading it. Overall I give it 3.5 our 5 stars.

Key Points

  • Keep teams small. This will ensure the team is united and in alignment. The writers agree with Jeff Bezos’s Two Pizza Rule.
  • Every project or effort should be focused on a technical insight.
  • When making a group decision, the leader should provide her opinion last. This ensures each team member provides an unbiased opinion to inform the decision.
  • Every meeting should have a clear owner and point of accountability. I can not emphasize the importance of this enough. For more on how to run an effective meeting check out Peter Drucker.
  • Be decisive when re-aligning the organization and figure out the details as you go. (Google tries to re-organized in 1 day!)
  • Google aims to be a flat organization. This means every manager must have more than 7 people reporting to them. This runs contrary to what is advised by Navy Seal leader Jocko Willink in his book Extreme Ownership.
  • Hiring is the most important activity at Google. They do a lot to award team members who get involved with the hiring process. This chapter is a must read for any manager staffing up a team.
  • Use Objectives and Key Results (OKR). Every employee (including the founders), team, and project at Google have OKRs. ‘Objectives’ are what they want to get done and ‘Key Results’ are how they measure success. The founders brief their personal OKRs to the entire company on a quarterly basis. This drives organizational priorities, alignment, and helps individuals and teams define their own OKRs.
  • Avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Feed winners and starve losers.
  • The 70/20/10 Rule: allocate 70% of resources to the core business, 20% to up and coming projects with some kind of proven success, and 10% to totally new big ideas.

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