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Google Organisational Culture

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Business Studies

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, describes an important belief that guides Google's company culture:

Make sure that everybody in the company has great opportunities, has a meaningful impact, and is contributing to the good of society.

The Google organizational case will tell you more about the Google company and its organizational culture. After reading this case study you will learn not only about Google and its culture, but also about Google's organizational structure, the management style it employs, and how it addresses problems.

About Google

Before we dive into the organizational case study of Google, we first need to know a little more about the Google company. Google is an innovative American search engine company founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The company's history began in 1995 at Stanford University, where the founders met and before Google was born, it was called "Backrub". Today, the company produces a variety of products that are used around the world. Google uses a universal approach to cater to everyone's preferences - developers, businesses and all users. Products include Gmail, Google Maps, Pixel and more.

The company's mission is to organise universal information and make it accessible to all. To achieve this, Google strives to innovate quickly.

Google's core company values are to: put the user first and maximize their experience; when it comes to service, fast is better than slow; master one thing very well; and make money without doing something bad. These are Google's principal core values.

As an innovative company, Google is known for its flexible and informal culture where people are the most important asset. Google strives to bring diverse people together and create innovation.

Google organizational structure and culture

Google's organizational structure is relatively flat and supports informal communication between different organizational units. Moreover, their organizational culture supports changes and encourages openness between employees. Most importantly, Google's structure and culture align with each other.

Now let's have a look at Google's organizational structure and culture in more detail.

Google's organisational structure

Google follows a cross-functional organizational structure, also known as a Matrix corporate structure.

Using the cross-functional or matrix structure means that staff from different functions with a variety of skills are grouped together to work on a certain project or product development. Each cross-functional group is usually headed by a senior manager who is responsible for leading that group.

Google 'structure involves three main characteristics which are:

  • Function-based - Google's structure involves a functional side as the company has its separate functions such as finance, sales, and marketing, research and development, etc. grouped into different functional departments. All functions are led by an executive who manages the function and makes strategic decisions.
  • Product-based - The products that the company produces are developed through product groups that involve employees from various functions. Google has two main product-based groups which are responsible for cloud operations and another one for artificial intelligence operations. There is also an executive responsible for each of those groups that assist in developing product lines.
  • Flatness - The organization is relatively flat meaning that employees are able to communicate to managers of various levels throughout the organization without middle management being involved. Even in the functional-based areas, employees are able to communicate with higher managers. This allows for information to flow effectively within the function and across departments which encourages innovation.

Google's organizational structure can be illustrated in the diagram below.

Google Organizational Culture, Google Organizational Structure, StudySmarterGoogle Organizational Structure, Study Smarter

Google's organizational culture

As mentioned previously one of the main reasons for Google's success as being a highly innovative company is an alignment between structure and culture. The keywords that can be used to describe Google's organizational culture are innovative, open, and social. Not to forget that the main belief that Google's culture follows is that the people are the most important assets in the organization.

Now let's have a look at the main characteristics that make up Google's culture. These are:

  • Openness - Google's culture encourages employees to share knowledge and ideas with each other.

    An open organisational culture allows marketing department employees to interact with product design employees and gain valuable knowledge in this field. This is particularly useful when designing a new product line, as good communication between both sides will enhance the product's design and add value to its promotion to consumers.

  • Innovation - Google's culture strongly encourages employees to be innovative in whatever they do. To encourage innovation, Google supports risk-taking and offers financial rewards for successful innovations.
  • Excellence - Google's culture is built around the expectation that every employee can achieve excellence. To achieve this, the company offers further education and training programs to employees so they continue to improve and achieve exceptional results at work.
  • Hands-on approach - Google's culture follows the concept that employee development is best accomplished through on-the-job training. Therefore, Google supports experimental learning and encourages risk-taking as it is believed to encourage innovation.
  • Social - Google's culture encourages employees to communicate between departments and to make social connections. As informal relationships between employees not only make sharing ideas easier but also improve employees' wellbeing.

Google company problems and solutions

There are certain ways that Google addresses and solves problems that arise in the company. Here are some ways Google deals with problems when they occur in the company.

Give opportunity for employees to solve problems - Problems are not assigned to specific individuals at Google, rather they are solved by people who are passionate about solving them. Solutions are therefore more effective.

Expose everyone to a problem - At Google, it is believed that exposing everyone to a problem is one of the best ways to find a solution.

A poster with a problem Google is trying to solve would be printed out and hung up in the kitchen for everyone to see. Once it's exposed to everyone, someone may see it and have an effective idea on how to solve it.

Understand when employees mistakes are made - Instead of being strict with employees when they create problems they cannot fix, managers at Google understand them and encourage them to take risks and come up with solutions. That is the reason why employees are not afraid to take risks and try various methods until problems are solved.

Google management style

The management style that is widely used in Google is democratic. At Google, this management style was implemented by one of the CEOs, Larry Page. Page believed that involving employees in decision-making and being part of the company will maximize their motivation and reflect in their performances. In addition, at Google, managers ensure that the employees are doing work that is meaningful and they communicate openly with employees and actively ask for their opinion.

Democratic management style means that employees are encouraged to be part of the decision-making. Managers make decisions together with subordinates, which involve frequent discussions to achieve mutual goals.

As a whole, Google's culture has an impact on its success in innovation. Culture is aligned with the company structure and is driven by openness, innovation, social aspects, and many more. And not to mention, people are the company's greatest assets.

Google Organisational Culture - Key takeaways

  • Google is an innovative American search engine company founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
  • Google follows a cross-functional organizational structure, also known as Matrix corporate structure.
  • Google's structure involves three main characteristics which are function-based definition, product-based definition, and flatness.

  • One of the main reasons for Google's innovation is the alignment between Google's culture and structure.

  • The key characteristics of Google's culture are openness, innovation, excellence, hands-on approach, and socialness.

  • There are three main ways that Google deals with problems when they occur in the organization. These are: give opportunities for employees to solve problems, expose employees to problems and understand employees when mistakes are made.

  • The management style that is widely used in Google is democratic.


SOURCES:

About.Google, From the garage to the Googleplex, 2020.

Carol Sanford, How Google's Larry Page became a responsible entrepreneur, 2014.

Nathaniel Smithson, Google's Organizational Structure & Organizational Culture (An Analysis), 2019.

Savoia and Copeland, Entrepreneurial Innovation at Google, 2011.

Spector, A., Norvig, P. and Petrov, S., Google's Hybrid Approach to Research, 2012.

Stabile, SJ, Google Benefits or Google's Benefit, 2008.

Google Organisational Culture

Google's main organizational values are:

  • Put the primary focus on the user and maximize their experience,
  • Fast is better than slow,
  • Do one thing very well,
  • Make money without doing anything bad.

Factors that are responsible for the specific culture that exists at Google are:

  • Innovativeness,
  • Valuing employees as the most important assets in the organization,
  • Culture alignment with the organizational structure.

The unique company culture was established because Google realized that a culture that can be defined by characteristics such as openness, innovation, excellence, and so on, encourages innovation. 

Google's organizational culture is highly innovative and is aligned with its organizational structure.

Google's work culture follows a few characteristics which are:

  • openness,
  • Innovation,
  • excellence,
  • hands-on approach,
  • Social.

Final Google Organisational Culture Quiz

Question

What type of business is Google?

Show answer

Answer

Google is an innovative American search engine company.

Show question

Question

Can you name a few products/services that Google has produced?

Show answer

Answer

Gmail, Google Maps, Pixel etc.

Show question

Question

What type of organisational structure does Google follow?

Show answer

Answer

Google follows a cross-functional organisational structure, also known as Matrix corporate structure. 

Show question

Question

What are the main characteristics of Google's organisational structure?

Show answer

Answer

The main characteristics of Google's organisational structure are:

  • Function-based definition
  • Product-based-definition
  • Flatness.

Show question

Question

What is the main belief that Google's culture is built upon?

Show answer

Answer

The most important belief on which the Google culture is built is that employees are the company's most important asset.

Show question

Question

What are the main characteristics of Google's culture?

Show answer

Answer

The main characteristics of Google's culture are:

  • Openness
  • Innovation
  • Excellence
  • Hands-on approach
  • Social

Show question

Question

What are the key ways that Google implements to address and solve problems?

Show answer

Answer

The key ways that Google uses to address and solve problems are:

  • Give opportunity for everyone to solve problems
  • Expose everyone to a problem
  • Understand employees when mistakes are made.


Show question

Question

What is meant by 'expose everyone to a problem'?

Show answer

Answer

This means that everyone will be informed about the problem, e.g. by hanging a poster that indicates the problem in the company cafeteria. Once it's exposed to everyone, someone may see it and have an effective idea on how to solve it.

Show question

Question

What management style is used at Google?

Show answer

Answer

At Google democratic management style is widely used.

Show question

Question

What is meant by the democratic management style?

Show answer

Answer

Democratic management style means that employees are encouraged to be part of the decision making. Managers make decisions together with subordinates, which involve frequent discussions to achieve mutual goals. 

Show question

Question

What is meant by the cross-functional/matrix structure?

Show answer

Answer

The cross-functional/matrix structure means that staff from different functions with a variety of skills are grouped together to work on a project or product development. Each cross-functional group is usually headed by a senior manager who is responsible for leading that group.

Show question

Question

What is Google's mission?

Show answer

Answer

Google's mission is to organise universal information and make it accessible to all.

Show question

Question

What is meant by the 'openness' in Google's culture?

Show answer

Answer

Openness in Google's culture means that employees are encouraged to share knowledge and ideas with each other.

Show question

Question

Why making informal connections is an important part of a company's culture?

Show answer

Answer

This is because informal relationships between employees not only make sharing ideas easier but also improve employees' wellbeing.

Show question

Question

What is the meaning of flat organisational structure?

Show answer

Answer

The flat organisation structure means that employees can communicate directly with managers at all levels without having to go through middle management.

Show question

Question

Democratic management style means that employees are encouraged to be part of the decision-making

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

"Managers make decisions together with subordinates, which involve frequent discussions to achieve mutual goals."


This is characteristic of a:


Show answer

Answer

democratic management style

Show question

Question

An open organisational culture is particularly useful when designing a new product line.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

At Google, an open organisational culture prevents marketing department employees to interact with product design employees.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

To encourage innovation, companies can:

Show answer

Answer

support risk-taking

Show question

Question

One of the main reasons for Google's success as being a highly innovative company is an alignment between structure and culture.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

A 'hands-on approach' to employee development can be characterised by:

Show answer

Answer

on-the-job training

Show question

Question

Informal relationships between employees not only make sharing ideas easier but also improve employees' wellbeing.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Giving passionate employees an opportunity to solve problems is an effective way of coming up with solutions to the problem.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

The reason why employees at Google are not afraid to take risks is due to:

Show answer

Answer

Google's strict managers

Show question

Question

Exposing everyone to a problem can be an effective way of finding a solution to the problem.


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

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