How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

3 Bullet Book: 2020, book #41: “You NEED to know the details. Everyone should be able to quickly rattle off or communicate the key issues they face in their role at any time.” — Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Finished on June 13, 2020

This was one of the books on my list for a while. When I first got this book, it had been about a month spent with my new roommate — who had previously interned at Google. I thought it would be great to learn more about the company and about some of the ways that they do things. This book certainly impressed me and the thoughtfulness and intentionality that went into their cultural and overall business operations.

The 3 bullets

1. They create a standard hiring packet for all applicants so they can standardize reviews for all people. When it comes to the hiring committees that they maintain, the authors mentioned that this is the only thing that the hiring committee receives. This was particularly interesting to me and is incredibly important when it comes to proper hiring practices that are going to be valuable for the company.

2. The key steps on email were definitely important and valuable. There are so many little things that people don’t think about when it comes to email and many times, we see people getting bogged down and absorbed by emails.

3. I loved the focus on ownership of tasks and responsibilities also. They emphasized that we don’t need to tell employees to stay late or to leave early. What we should be telling them is to be the owner of something — and then allow them to take responsibility and maintain accountability.

The culture of Google encouraged people to solve problems for which they weren’t even responsible.

If they failed — no one would chastise them.

If they succeeded, no one would be jealous.

It wasn’t a culture that turned people into ninjas who would since problems over the weekend, it was the culture which attracted those people to the company in the first place.

“No vision is worth the paper it’s printed on unless it is communicated constantly and reinforced with rewards.” Jack Welch

The culture should be a meritocracy where dissent is an obligation not an option.

Don’t tell your employees to stay late or leave early to spend time with their families. Rather, tell them to own the things for which they are responsible and trust that they will do what it takes to get them done. Then give them the space and the freedom to make it happen.

There are NUMEROUS advantages to having everything open source. Greater collaboration — and thereby more innovation to name one. It’s important that companies can communicate they have no hidden agendas, and being open sourced does that best.

Closed is best when you have a great competitive advantage in a new market or when other parties have different interests or objectives.

The most important thing in a company is hiring. A’s tend to hire A’s who attract A’s. The best thing you can do is ensure that a new hire is a great fit for everyone — not just the recruiting manager. Create a hiring culture that refuses compromise. Recruiting is everyone’s job so grade them that way.

In an interview it should be more of an intellectual conversation than a question and answer session. Ask things like:

What surprised you about this?

Asking scenario-based questions is important. The answers should be specific and provide insight.

Asking a tough question that doesn’t have a set answer displays how someone deconstructs a tough question and also if they enjoy the process.

It’s essential that interviewers recognize when people are asking interesting questions. Great candidates always have more than one opportunity.

Schedule interviews for 30 minutes. That’s more than enough time to determine if you don’t like someone. And if you do like them, you can easily schedule another interview right then and they’re.

Google grades all candidates 1–4 and associates emotional language with each grade. A 4 is “this person would be perfect for the real and if they aren’t hired expect to hear from me.”

“There is nothing more important than who we hire.”

Every interviewee has a standard hiring packet that needs to be fully completed by all interviewers. It should be stuffed to the brim with data and needs to be easily understandable by anyone. Details matter.

The packet is the only information that the hiring committee (of 4 or 5 diverse people) receives.

It’s important to encourage the use of facts and data which makes disagreement more impersonal. There is a point at which more analysis during a discussion may lead to a better decision. The decision maker must set the deadline by which a decision must be reached. Set the deadline. Run the process. Enforce the deadline.

Every meeting needs an owner/decision maker. They need to call the meeting, invite the appropriate people, and set an agenda that is shared at least 24 hours in advance. They need to then summarize the decisions and actions taken to square with all participants within 48 hours. Nobody else should do this.

No more than 8 people in a room, 10 at the most, everyone needs to give their input.

Google has made a point to share every board letter (minus the few things that legal says can’t be shared) and corresponding presentations since the company started. This way people understand what’s going on and everyone creating the board letter knows just how important it is.

You NEED to know the details. Everyone should be able to quickly rattle off or communicate the key issues they face in their role at any time.

Ask tough questions and tell the truth at all times. Good news will be just as good tomorrow but bad news will be worse.

The golden rule of management: make sure you would work for yourself. As a leader, review yourself and determine if you would work for yourself. Write a self review and then share it.

Email guidelines:

1. Respond quickly.
2. Every word matters.
3. Clean out your inbox constantly. Touch things as few times as possible — strive to only read things once. The goal is always no more than 5 emails in your inbox but really aim for 0.
4. Handle email in LIFO order
5. Remember that you’re a router and ask what should be forwarded to other people.
6. Check yourself when you feel the need to use the bcc feature; copy openly or not at all.
7. Don’t yell — it’s far too easy to do via email.
8. When you send an action item to someone that you need to track, copy yourself and label it followup. Send the others a note and simply ask, “is this done?”
9. If you want to save something as a reference, forward it to yourself and think “how would I search for this later?” And use those terms in the body. This way all important items are easy to retrieve from any browser.

Research allocation at Google:

70/20/10, 70% on core business, 20% on emerging, and 10% on new.

Ship and iterate. Make changes. Especially with software this is something that can happen easily.

Feed the winners and starve the losers.

Ask the hardest questions:

What do you see for the business that others may not or may see but will ignore?

Don’t ask “what will be true about the future” and rather ask “what could be true about the future?”

How would a very smart, well-capitalized competitor attack the company’s core business?

How could it take advantage of digital platforms to exploit weaknesses or skim off the most profitable customer segments?

What is the company doing to disrupt its own business?

Is cannibalization or revenue loss a frequent reason to kill off potential innovation?

Is there an opportunity to build a platform that can offer increasing returns and value as usage grows?

Do company leaders use your products regularly? Do they love them? Would they give them to a spouse as a gift?

Do your customers love your products or are they locked in by other factors that might evaporate in the future? If they weren’t locked in at all, what would happen?

If you forced your product people to make it easy for customers to ditch your products for a competitor’s, how would they react? Could they make your products so great that customers want to stay even if they don’t have to?

When you go through your pipeline of upcoming new major products and features, what percentage of them are built on unique technical insights? How many product people are on the senior leadership team? Does the company aggressively reward and promote the people who have the biggest impact on creating excellent products?

Is hiring a top priority at the c-suite level? Do top executives actually spend time on it?

Among your stronger employees, how many of them see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10% raise at another company?

Do your decision-making processes lead to the best decisions or the most acceptable ones?

How much freedom do employees have? If someone is truly innovative, does that person have the freedom to act on his ideas regardless of his level?

Are decisions on new ideas based on product excellence or profit?

Who does better in the company: information hoarders or routers? Do silos prevent the free-flow of information and people?

Are you in the right place to attract the best smart creatives?

There will NOT be solutions to the questions that never get asked.

I gave this book a 4.5/5

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