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GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 1
Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?
By: Roman Yakhin
Management an...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 Executive Summary--------------------------------------...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 3
Executive Summary
The paper presents the analysis of Project Oxygen, which ...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 4
Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?
Case Synopsis
Executives at Go...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 5
was hired as CEO of Google in 2001. By 2012, Google’s market capitalization...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 6
culture in which good ideas are celebrated, and authority is derived from p...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 7
valuable resource. All the decisions in other departments in modern compani...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 8
Assessment
The broad research project under code name Project Oxygen starte...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 9
8 Behaviors of Effective Managers
After reviewing data PiLab members identi...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 10
Google used to believe that to be an engineering manager you needed to hav...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 11
Second, managers lacked a consistent approach to performance management an...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 12
Implementation
To measure the eight attributes, the Project Oxygen team pa...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 13
Project Oxygen got recognized by academics and experts in the field of man...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 14
Priorities Moving Forward
When the Project Oxygen started the data suggest...
GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 15
References
 David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Pr...
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  1. 1. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 1 Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? By: Roman Yakhin Management and Organizational Behavior
  2. 2. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS  Executive Summary------------------------------------------------------------------------3  Case Synopsis-------------------------------------------------------------------------------4  Google’s Overview-------------------------------------------------------------------------4  People Operations and the Formation of PiLab-----------------------------------------6  Assessment-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------8  8 Behaviors of Effective Managers-------------------------------------------------------9  3 Major Management Pitfalls-------------------------------------------------------------10  Implementation-----------------------------------------------------------------------------12  Impact and Reflection of the Project----------------------------------------------------12  Priorities Moving Forward----------------------------------------------------------------14  References-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------15
  3. 3. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 3 Executive Summary The paper presents the analysis of Project Oxygen, which was developed at Google. This case paper’s objective is to discuss the details and conclusions of Project Oxygen and to answer the question: “Do Managers Matter?” The paper describes Google’s culture and attitude towards management. It provides results of the study done by the PiLab team of People Operations at Google. The paper shows the effectiveness of implementation of programs based on Project Oxygen’s findings, and it also discusses the future plans of members of PiLab on improving management in Google based on the finding of Project Oxygen. (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? HBC) Keywords: Project Oxygen
  4. 4. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 4 Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? Case Synopsis Executives at Google tried to find the answer to a fundamental question: “Do managers matter?” Three members of People Operations in Google formed PiLab to work on this project. They started actively analyzing data about Google’s managers in early 2009. This was the beginning of Project Oxygen. Their research finds the difference between the top 25% and the bottom 25% of managers according to surveys and performance reviews. The research found some surprising patterns common to successful managers in Google. The paper listed these 8 traits and discussed the steps Google took to improve performance of management, based on the findings of Project Oxygen. The paper discussed the implementation of Project Oxygen and how it improved the quality of management within Google. Additionally, they reviewed the future plans and challenges for the members of PiLab. Google’s Overview Google was founded in 1998 by two Ph.D. students from Stanford: Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The company organized the world’s information and made it universally accessible and useful. To date they have raised over $26 million dollars in investments. In 2000, Google started offering AdWords, a keyword-targeted advertising program. Former Novell CEO, Eric Schmidt
  5. 5. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 5 was hired as CEO of Google in 2001. By 2012, Google’s market capitalization was $250 billion and it employed 35,000 people. Google provides the leading search engine. The company’s mission is to make the world more accessible amongst everyone in all aspects of life. Google has multiple programs, promotions, and campaigns to make human life easier. Google is number three among the world’s most valuable companies. It is an extraordinary result for a such a young company. It has been less than a decade since Google’s initial public offering (IPO). Google has more than 2 million applications every year. Each Google’s employee on average produce about 1.2 million dollars in revenue. The success of Google is exceptional and in many ways it can be attributed to the companies use of scientific data to drive HR decisions. (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? HBC) Google’s Culture and Attitude to Management. Back in 2002, Google’s founders tried to create a totally flat organization, with no management. This experiment failed after a couple of months. Google prides themselves on talent acquisition, they embrace a data-driven hiring process and offer substantial compensation package. This helps Google to hire the top talent. Candidates in addition to great resumes must have initiative, flexibility, collaborative spirit and be well-rounded. Executives believe that Google’s hiring filter was a critical component of the company accomplishments. Google has a
  6. 6. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 6 culture in which good ideas are celebrated, and authority is derived from peer respect. Google gives their employees an unprecedented amount of freedom. Engineers are encouraged to think on their pet projects. They can spend up to 20% of their work week working on these special projects. The company is able to attract the best talent because of its very competitive pay and incredible benefits. Googles employees have access to free buffet, excellent health insurance, and life insurance that guarantee 50% yearly pay for a decade to the survivor of an employee. Google has many young, high achievers who crave independence. Therefore, managers fail if they rely only on the authority of their position. (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? HBC) People Operations and the Formation of PiLab The most important idea of Google’s science based human resource management is that personal management choices are the most important for any organization. It is impossible to create great enterprise results if the leadership does not make accurate, scientifically based employees management choices. Some people would think that other departments in the organization can make the most valuable decisions. They can say the marketing department deserves more focus, or maybe because Google is high tech company R&D department must take larger priority. But ultimately all of these departments rely on people. If people are not the best possible candidates for the job, and if they are not properly motivated by their management, the quality of work by all the company’s departments will be less than desirable. For many company’s employees are the largest variable cost and therefore it is very important to use analytical and scientific methods to manage these companies most
  7. 7. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 7 valuable resource. All the decisions in other departments in modern companies are based on studies and a lot of data, but so many firms at the same time still make their important personal decisions mostly by relying on feelings and relationships. This kind of approach is totally not acceptable for such innovative and data driven company like Google. Human Resources within Google is called People Operations. At the center of it is a sophisticated employee-data tracking program. The people analytics team reports directly to the Vice President. People Analytics tried to find the correlations and recommend necessary actions for improvement. The purpose of People Operations was to replace opinion based employee management decision with data and analytics based decisions, and therefore dramatically increase the quality of the decisions being made. People Operations helped manage the performance review process, which included regular response to managers as well as an annual 360 degree reviews. In 2007, Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations hired Prasad Setty as the leader of the group “People Analytics” inside People Operations. Initially, Google’s leadership tried to make all people decisions by using data, but later it was changed so that all people decisions should be informed by data and analytics. The purpose of this was to remove bias in decision-making, but at the same time data had not to completely erase the role of personal judgment. Three PhD members of People Analytics formed People & Innovation Lab (PiLab). It consisted out of Jennifer Kurkoski (leader), Brian Welle, Neal Patel. In 2009, the PiLab started working on the question: “Do managers matter? What would be the results if everyone had an amazing manager?” (Brad Hall (2014). Google's Project Oxygen Pumps Fresh Air into Management. The Street)
  8. 8. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 8 Assessment The broad research project under code name Project Oxygen started in late 2009. The Project got it name, because “good managers are the lifeblood of Google, helping it grow and innovate.” Google had high standards of proof. Google’s People Operation department used science based HR. Therefore, the team was using scientific methods. One of these methods was the Proof by Contradiction. This is a form of indirect proof, that establishes, that the truth of the statement by disproving the opposite statement. So, the team tried to prove the opposite case; that managers did not matter, but they ultimately failed to do so. Project Oxygen was a conglomerate of surveys, feedbacks, observations and analysis. The main goal of the project was to find out the most important traits that employees perceived to be critical in making an excellent manager. Dr. Patel studied a cross-section of high-scoring and low-scoring people managers based on a combination of Googlegeist ratings and performance review scores. “High-scoring” managers were those in the top quartile on both measures, and “low-scoring” managers were in the bottom quartile of both. Even a small increase in management quality had a powerful effect. Supplementary research proved that the difference between low-scoring and high-scoring managers impacted job satisfaction, retention, and performance. Better managers had higher performance teams. Google employees with higher-scoring managers had steadily higher scores on all Googlegeist dimensions. Based on this data the PiLab team was able to conclude that managers do matter. PiLab members asked next question: “What do our best managers do?” (Meghan Casserly, (2013). "Google's Failed Quest to Prove Managers Are Evil -- And Why You Should Care”. Forbes.)
  9. 9. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 9 8 Behaviors of Effective Managers After reviewing data PiLab members identified 8 behaviors that were common among high scoring managers throughout the corporation. (Mike Morrison (2012). Google’s Project Oxygen – 8-point plan to help managers Improve. RapidBi.) 1 Be a coach Find out what matters to each of your team members. Agree on development priorities. Check in with them regularly 2 Empower the team. Do not micromanage Break obstacles down to help team work more effectively. 3 Show interest in your team member life Show your team you care. 4 Productive and goal oriented Keep your eye on the prize and focus on priority results and deliverables. 5 Very good communicator and listener Set the stage for open dialogue. 6 Helping team members in career development Talk about career development. Help your team grow skills they want to develop. 7 Have a clear vision and strategy Develop and share your vision for the team. 8 Technical skills in order to advice people Roll up your own sleeves to help your team get things done.
  10. 10. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 10 Google used to believe that to be an engineering manager you needed to have as much, if not more, technical expertise on the subject as the people who worked for you. However, as the head of people Operations in Google said, “It turns out that that is absolutely the least important thing. It is important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.” (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? Harvard Business Case.) This idea is seeming to be very simple; however, it is very deferent from the way Google and many other high tech companies traditionally used to see the role of management. (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? HBC) 3 Major Management Pitfalls Project Oxygen has also helped to identify some major pitfalls mangers can have. Here are three of the most important and common obstacles in the path of being successful in leading a team. First, managers had trouble making a transition to the team. Some new manager can come onboard to an established working unit and fail to make a connection with people or fall in synch with the established team environment. This can occur with either young or experienced managers. For example, even with a seasoned manager, they may fail to transition after being relocated to a brand new assignment.
  11. 11. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 11 Second, managers lacked a consistent approach to performance management and career development. Each manager throughout the company could have his or her own performance matrix for judging the performance of workers. Such kinds of inconstancy can confuse and discourage people. They cannot understand what exactly is expected of them and also they can feel like they are being treated unjustly and unfair. For example, when people working at one team or one particular location of a company got promoted more often than others it can seriously discourage the rest of company’s employees and make them feel underappreciated. (Adam Bryant (2011). Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss. The NY Times) They can think that their personal performance has very little with their chances for promotion inside the company. It can lead to the loss of some top talents. Third, managers do not do enough time management and communicating. Some managers can spend almost all their time inside their offices, barely talking with their subordinates. They do not explain the big picture and do not tell to team members why they have to do something. If people are not told why they must do their job, they are often not very enthusiastic about it and their performance tends to suffer. Managers must ask their subordinates questions about their feelings and ideas. Sometimes people have some good ideas that can benefit the company, and also by talking with people managers make people feel like their boss is caring about them. This acts to improve the worker’s morale and therefore it improves their performance.
  12. 12. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 12 Implementation To measure the eight attributes, the Project Oxygen team partnered with People Operations to create two variations of the survey. The Upward Feedback Survey (UFS) was developed for employees in global business organization, and the Tech Managers Survey (TMS) was developed for members of the engineering group. Both surveys had 16 statements, spread across the attributes. By the end of 2010, a group within People Operations started to build management training courses around Project Oxygen findings. Coaching classes offered detailed recommendations on how to deliver personalized, balanced feedback. In 2011, the People Operations group built and launched the “Start Right” class, a two-hour introductory course for new people managers that was built around the Project Oxygen attributes. The Great Manager Award was established by Google in 2009. About 20 managers were nominated for this award by employees who had been selected each year. Since 2010 criteria of the award reflected eight Project Oxygen attributes, and the recipients of the award must be role models for the company. (Adam Bryant (2011). Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss. The NY Times) Impact and Reflection of the Project A comparison of UFS and TMS scores from 2010 to 2012 indicates that median scores rose from 83% favorable to 88% favorable. The least effective mangers improved the most over that time. In an environment of top achievers, low UFS scores tended to inspire action. Nearly all managers saw value in Project Oxygen. People who work at Google today realize the importance of management and want to invest in it. The composition of the company has changed. Managers in Google do not just direct work, but actually help improve others. (Meghan Casserly, (2013). "Google's Failed Quest to Prove Managers Are Evil -- And Why You Should Care”. Forbes.)
  13. 13. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 13 Project Oxygen got recognized by academics and experts in the field of management and leadership. For example, the “Corporate Leadership Council” of the “Corporate Executive Board”, an organization that has a great perspective on what executives at more than 1,000 companies are up to, praised Google for being at the leading edge. (Brad Hall (2014). Google's Project Oxygen Pumps Fresh Air into Management. The Street) The Project had impact way beyond Google. Results from Project Oxygen have forced many organizations to rethink the way they do HR. Many preconceived and outdated notions about the role of managers had to be revisited. Because Google is an incredibly successful company, many other companies tried emulate its practices and methods. Engineering organizations used to think that the role of manager was to be some sort of super engineer and a technical advisor for a team. However, they had to realize that any manger, including an engineering managers, first of all has to be able to be a great communicator and motivator rather than a technical expert. Annual performance is viewed by many manages as necessary routine and a useful and effective tool. Managers must be trained to correctly engage with direct reports in ways that are less official and more instructional and open. Mangers should constantly communicate with their team members. They most focus on performance improvement, direction, and motivation. (Adam Bryant (2011). “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss”. The New York)
  14. 14. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 14 Priorities Moving Forward When the Project Oxygen started the data suggested wide variance of managers and management skills. The average has been significantly improved, particularly for the bottom quartile. The goal was to raise it to a very high average level. PiLab start looking at managers by personality traits to see which ones had the greatest improvements in their scores. Google was inspired to grow the leaders that the world needed. Dr. Setty from PiLab greatest fear was that Project Oxygen is constraining. The Project Oxygen attributes are very important, but not aspirational. Dr. Setty desired to find out how to create truly amazing managers. Project Oxygen’s goal was to find out if managers matter, and to determine what makes a great manager. Head Google’s People Operations head said, “the successor to that is trying to figure out what makes teams great.” (David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? HBC)
  15. 15. GOOGLE’S PROJECT OXYGEN: DO MANAGERS MATTER? 15 References  David A. Garvin, Alison Berkley Wagonfeld (2016). Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? Harvard Business Case.  Adam Bryant (2011). Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss. The New York Times.  Brad Hall (2014). Google's Project Oxygen Pumps Fresh Air into Management. The Street.  Judith Aquino (2011). 8 Traits of Stellar Managers, Defined by Googlers. Business Insider  Mike Morrison (2012). Google’s Project Oxygen – 8-point plan to help managers Improve. RapidBi.  John Warren (2013). Copy of Google: Project Oxygen. Prezi.  Andrew R. McIlvaine (2010). Project Oxygen, Human resource Executives Online, http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=462021921  Meghan Casserly, (2013). "Google's Failed Quest to Prove Managers Are Evil -- And Why You Should Care”. Forbes.  Ernie A. Cevallos (2011). Project Oxygen: Building Better Bosses, biz-think, http://biz-think.blogspot.com/2011/04/project-oxygen-building-better-bosses.html  Adam Bryant (2011). “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss”. The New York

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