Leaders can take a lesson in how to refocus a team by watching Larry Page, Google’s chief executive. The company is losing employees to hot startups, while behemoth competitors like Facebook, Amazon and Apple vie for consumers’ time.
How is the executive pulling Google through its midlife crisis?
• First, by ruthlessly pruning. Page has dropped more than 25 less-popular projects within Google’s walls, such as Google Buzz, a social networking tool.
“We’ve launched some weaker services, honestly,” says Page. “We don’t want to be left with a complicated array of good-but-not-great services.”
For some, that’s a concern. Gmail is among the services that sprung from the company’s “20 percent time” program, which allowed employees to experiment with new ideas. Now, some fear, the company may nix its next business before it has time to flourish.
Page is signaling that the risk is worth it.
• Second, by streamlining internal structures. Now much bigger, Google had become more sluggish than it used to be, when it comes to decision-making.
Page’s personal work style tends toward less email, efficient face-to-face conversations, and quick decision-making. He now requires senior execs to come in for informal face-to-face meetings at least once monthly, when they churn through decisions.
Page believes the tedious back-and-forth of email drags out problem-solving.
Case in point: When two executives were having a dispute via email, Page called them to his office, principal-style. He “made sure we resolved the difference before we left the room,” says Salar Kamangar, a vice president of YouTube.
• Third, by speeding up execution. In the old days, Page, Sergey Brin and Eric E. Schmidt had to agree on everything before acting. The glacial pace was unsustainable in fast-paced Silicon Valley.
The biggest threat to Google’s future, says Page, is Google.
— Adapted from “Google’s Chief Works to Trim a Bloated Ship,” Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times.