The author, Karen Wicre (2017) discusses how the communication strategies used by Google have helped unravel substandard leadership, behavior, or decisions.
The top reason Karen Wicre holds that function is open communication.
The second reason Karen Wicre holds that role is free-spirited culture coupled with encouragement to innovate.
The third cause KarenWicre holds the position is “right to know” and “right to debate” culture.
The author, who started working with Google in the 12 months 2002, until the year 2011, has nothing however praises for the company. He not only noticed the size of the company develop from 500 employees to a whopping 50,000, however also stood witness to the unparalleled standards of innovation, the famous open communication culture, and a spirit that doesn’t cease to shimmer across the world. What the author noticed about the company during his tenure is that that Google encouraged its employees to explore a wide range of ideas, and permitted them to question the status quo. Google had incorporated a communication strategy a long time ago, which it adheres to till date: All-hands meetings that are built around an open mic and unscripted question and answer sessions with the executives. Another strategy that Google implemented is presenting a quarterly board report to all its employees. To further open up the communication gates, Google uses about 87,000 Google Groups email lists for communication of various topics – work-related and non-work-related. To break that down a bit, there exist about 8,000 miscellaneous discussions that range from rockets to juggling and philosophy to “terrible-ideas-discuss”.
The author expresses that Google was such a big influence in the way he saw things that it altered his default approach to life – he admits to becoming more risk-friendly and more global. Besides these, his critical thinking and long-term skills were enhanced. While he may not agree with every product or position of Google, he would still root for the company, six years after the annulment of his employment with them!
The most vivid point I’d like to accentuate upon is Google’s provision for open mic discussions, and unscripted question and answer sessions. We now live in a critical world where answers are demanded for every perceived unjustified act by people in power, at the cost of losing one’s job. People are getting smarter by the hour as they seem to tap into the internal workings of an organization. Being allowed to participate in the decision-making process of the company, in spite of being a minuscule component is a huge confidence booster for employees, besides being a big motivational incentive. This encourages young talent to join a company like this because they feel that they are important, and make a difference to the organization that they work with.
Google’s decision to publish its quarterly report for the view of all employees is a massive step in creating a feeling of transparency. When the employees get a peek at how the budget of the company is being utilized and who sanctions these fund allocations, it leaves no room for speculation – not towards the leadership and not towards the budget allocation either. This gives employees a confidence that the company is traversing the ethical path of business dealings. We human being are conscientious beings, more than we consider ourselves to be.
The strategy of open communication and having a say in everything could have a flipside to it. While most employees could be trusted with having sensible opinions and actions to this privilege, there could be some ‘bad apples’ that could use it maliciously. Also, this system leaves a thin line between the management and the employees, causing a possible upheaval. Colin Eden and Fran Ackermann (2004), in their book, state that implementing a new communication strategy could have ripples across initially. There are always going to be winners and losers amongst managers who implement strategies. It’s the journey that unfolds itself consequentially unveiling the possible outcome of strategies.
I’m certain that Google must have endured the above pitfalls gravely, but as an organization grows, it finds strength and solutions to pull through the tough times. For the problem listed in the preceding paragraph, one solution that immediately comes to mind is employing exceptional leadership. A leadership which is perceptive, diplomatic, and empathetic at the same time, alongside having a knack for good communication can counteract the problem of ‘overtly open communication’. As for the quarterly budget publish, everybody could view it, but not edit it. What I mean by this solution is employees could be given the privilege of casting their vote on the decisions and gradually influence it. However, the final power should be vested with the ones qualified and entrusted by a common veto to take decisions.
After going through the exercise of analyzing communication strategies, I definitely feel that implementing a few principles from Google in my former organization would help better the work environment there. My former organization, being a technical-centric one like Google, could greatly benefit from its policy of status quo questioning. Every employee must have a right to question the decision-making, without the management flaunting power or taking offence to objections. Constructive arguments and discussions should be encouraged with an earthy spirit and this will go a long way in reducing the attrition rate in the company, alongside fostering a healthy, manager-peer relationship.
Karen Wicre (2017) – What Google’s Open Communication Culture Is Really Like – www.wired.com
Colin Eden, Fran Ackermann (2004) – Making Strategy: The Journey of Strategic Management – 5(8), (452-477).