Article written for peer review for the Association of MBA’s in the UK
David Dean Ellis LL.M MBA BA
If you cannot be the poet, be the poem,
The above quote captures the spirit and energy which Google as a company has brought to the world of innovation and technology. This “spirit” has been accomplished through a unique configuration of management application as well as through Google’s steadfast sense of identity and mission. In the space of fifteen years Google has become the poem which is continuously writing itself across the world of innovation and technology. This paper will concentrate specifically on the company’s mission using the Ashbridge sense of mission model as a yardstick to effectively demonstrate how Google’s leaders have been successful at creating a firm sense of mission amongst their employees through carefully thought out management practices.
Google’s mission statement ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible” represents one of the most ambitious and over arching goals of any innovation or technology company, reminiscent of Porras and Collins (2010) concept of having Big , Hairy, Ambitious Goals (BHAG) . The Statement itself on the surface would appear to be demonstrative of folly or arrogance until one realizes that it in effect from the inception, it establishes the idea that Google is a company which strives for seemingly unattainable excellence and this is reflected in practice in the company’s meteoric rise in the industry. It insinuates a moral service to the world which in and of itself is an inspiring concept, an undertaking which will have benefits for all mankind including the company itself.
Indeed this “lofty” goal of doing service to the world by organizing it’s information and making it useful and accessible for all the stakeholders of Google has become a value and ideal with which the average individual can easily identify. This is reflected in the company’s strategic decision to pursue an open innovation approach to its products for example the release of Google maps navigation in 2008 and its use of crowd sourcing as a source of innovation for its products. Users of the company’s products as well as their staff not only participate in the greater purpose assisting the company in its service to the world but can relate this activity as also helping themselves in the long run.
In terms of the strategy employed at Google, the company’s distinctive capability from its inception lay with its ability to connect the wider world with information efficiently. Google’s emphasis on developing its search function which remains a free service to the wider world allows the company to not only maintain dominance in the field of online advertising but also to effectively support its mission statement of making the world’s information useful and accessible. This is further supported by its diversification strategy into many different technologies and areas where information exchange exist for example, the mobile phone software market. These diversification strategies in addition to providing the company with additional capabilities is also closely aligned with its raison d’etre instilling a sense of purpose and harmony between the company’s product developers its shareholders as well as the end user who experiences a company who is continuously working to their benefit and living up to its mission statement.
Google’s internal policies provide a direct support structure for the company’s mission as well as the foundation for its strategic position. It can be seen from the company’s recruitment practices for example that the company is in business to not only provide the best effort in producing the best products with the best people but also the company is able to maintain a relatively stable organizational work environment by hiring people who readily fit into the established culture and who will continue to support the values of high standards which the company seeks to maintain. The company’s use of loosely gathered, self managing work teams with short deadlines and its concomitant use of peer reviews are indicators to staff members that the company is results oriented and demands high standards from their staff.
The lack of leader intervention in the work progress of teams and the allowance of employee “free” time to work on personal projects using company resources also supports the principle of continuous in-house idea creation and innovation which are the cornerstone of Google’s corporate strategy to maintain dominance through diversification and constant development.
Google’s specially developed organizational culture and corporate strategy is the embodiment of company which has the core values of sharing and cooperation at its centre. Not only is there the “natural” sharing of effort and labor with respect to self directed work teams in which individuals choose which projects they are interested in, the same concept holds true for the management structure of the organization which shares company’s resources first with the staff in supporting their personal projects and the wider community through the sharing of their and ideas with other organizations in the form of software development such as the Android platform for smart phones and the release of beta products for testing by the wider community.
Closely linked to this idea is the freedom of choice which the company’s staff has come to enjoy both from the decentralized leadership style which the company affords its employees as well as the freedom to choose their personal interests which ensures that staff remain motivated. Freedom of choice is also reflected in company’s behavior in the external market through giving the wider community free access to useful alternative products for example Picasa and Google Maps as part of its competitive strategy to maintain dominance through continual diversification.
The company’s commitment to high standards of operation and perpetual innovation and change is yet another value which is at the centre of Google’s mission. A company which “Measures everything” and maintains a high scrutiny in terms of recruitment policy is a company which has adopted high standards in the quality of work from its employees as a core value. Its willingness to acquire technologies and products which it does not have the capability to develop in order to gain more capabilities also demonstrates the importance which the company places on remaining a market leader and fulfilling its mission statement of organizing the information of the world.
According to the Ashbridge Sense of mission model, a sense of mission represents an emotional commitment to the company’s mission. Google’s leadership achieves a sense of mission with its employees and the rest of its stakeholders not only through its development of strong mission guidelines and behavioral standards but through the synergy which is created between its practices beliefs, and its stated purpose. For the stakeholders Google is what it says it is and is fulfilling its purpose not only through the development of its impressive capabilities but with a corporate identity and a culture which embodies some of the most admirable fundamental human traits and values. To be a “googler” is to belong to an institution which values high achievement, the sharing of knowledge and information in the spirit of freedom. It imbues the employee with an identity which is continually forward thinking and which associates service to the community with the idea of success. Google therefore has become the poem of the technology and information industry which is continuously writing itself absent the direction of the poet.