Keeping your company a “Bozo-Free” Zone – the Google Way
A Bozo-free Zone
Google’s leaders believe that one exceptional technologist is many times more valuable than one average engineer; hence they insist on hiring only the brightest of the bright—folks out on the right-hand end of the bell-shaped curve.
They also believe that if you let one “bozo” in, more will surely follow. Their logic is simple: A-level people want to work with A-level people—fellow savants who will spark their thinking and accelerate their learning.
Trouble is, B-level people are threatened by A-class talent, so once they get in the door, they tend to hire colleagues who are as unremarkable as they are. Worse, a B-class staffer with a bit of an insecurity problem may opt to hire C-grade employees who lack the self-confidence to challenge anyone’s point of view.
As the ranks of the mediocre expand, it becomes harder to attract and retain the truly exceptional. And before you know it, the process of dumbing-down has become irreversible.
Conventional wisdom says you should hire people who are not like you. That’s wrong. Hire people who are like you, only better. Growing up, my parents always told me to get better at tennis. I had to play with “A” players. By playing with the best, they said, my own game would improve.
Marc Benioff CEO Salesforce.com
More on management a la Google from the WSJ
The ultimate test of any management team is not how fast it can grow its company in the short-term, but how consistently it can grow it over the long-term. In a world where change is relentless and seditious, this demands a capacity for rapid strategic adaptation. In recent years we have witnessed adaptation failures by incumbents across a wide variety of industries: airlines, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, newspapers, and recorded music. In many cases, companies haven’t been changing as fast as the world around them.
What the laggards have failed to grasp is that what matters most today is not a company’s competitive advantage at a point in time, but its evolutionary advantage over time. Google gets this.
Evolutionary risk factor #2: A hierarchical organization that over-weights the views of those who have a stake in perpetuating the status quo. Google’s response: An organization that is flat, transparent, and non-hierarchical.
When power is concentrated at the top, a tradition-bound executive team can hold a company’s capacity to change hostage to its own ability to adapt. That’s why it so usually takes a financial meltdown and leadership change to set a company on a new course. It is noteworthy that neither Larry Page nor Sergei Brin, Google’s founders, has proclaimed himself “chief software architect,” the badge Bill Gates wears at Microsoft. Rather than assume they’re infallible seers with a divine right to dictate Google’s next strategy and the one after that, Messrs. Page and Brin have created a Darwinian environment in which every idea must compete on its merits, not on the grandeur of its sponsor’s title.
Google has invested heavily in building a highly transparent organization that makes it easy to share ideas, poll peers, recruit volunteers, and build natural constituencies for change. Every project team, and there are hundreds, maintains a Web site that is continuously monitored for peer feedback. In this way, unorthodox ideas have the chance to accumulate peer support — or not — before they get pummeled by the higher-ups. It also helps that Google is organized like the Internet itself: tightly connected, flat and meritocratic. Half of its employees — all those involved in product development — work in pint-sized teams, with an average of three or four engineers per team. Product managers typically have 50+ direct reports, making it hard for supervisors to micromanage. Critically, control is more peer-to-peer than manager-to-minion.