In the December 2013 Issue of the HBR, David Garvin wrote an interesting article on “How Goolge Sold Its Engineers on Management” (http://hbr.org/2013/12/how-google-sold-its-engineers-on-management/ar/1). There were a few things I found interesting about this article, the first of which was it being buried in a Spotlight on Making Your Company Data Friendly Section. Certainly not what I expected, although it does talk about mining HR data.
More interesting for me was how they shaped the culture to have a richer and deeper understanding of management through direct engagement from their employees. The interesting piece here is the tech sector and the unique challenges that come with managing techies/engineers. All of this change didn’t happen overnight and these things take time. They brought in a culture of 360’s and worked with the managers on developing a series of core competencies or behaviours. They then used this list to get a common language and asked their employees to rate their managers, twice a year. It sounds a bit like a 360 light and the list of questions included such things as: are they being a good coach, do they empower the team, do they micro manage, is there clear vision and strategy, do they have technical skills… None of this is new, but you can see how some of these would resonate with technology professionals. They made sure there was a good understanding of each of these behaviours across the organization and they added in some qualitative questions on behaviours that were seen or should be seen. They encouraged the managers to share their results, and set targets for improvement. They also mined the data to observe more subtle differences and help validate the results, as well as the process.
At the end of the day they saw most improvement in the managers who scored lowest and they nurtured a better understanding and respect for the management role. It was a good article and an interesting process that could be replicated.
On a side note, an interesting take away for me was the management/employee ratios. If we take the 5,000 managers, 1,000 directors and 100 vice presidents away from the 37,000 total employees at Google, that leaves 5,000 managers for about 31,000 employees, or a ratio of about 6 to 1. We recently did a reorganization here that created a new cohort of operational managers and we sit at about 6.5. There always seems to be a debate around too many, or too few managers. Maybe we are ok J