Larry Page had barely stepped into the corner office at the Googleplex Monday morning before the re-shuffling began. Jonathan Rosenberg, the much lauded SVP of product management, whom Silicon Alley Insider had just pegged as one of the Ten Most Powerful Executives, announced that evening that he was leaving. And now there are rumors that Page, who last held the CEO mantle ten years ago, is fomenting a massive reorg, eliminating the company’s centralized functional structure and instead making engineers the leaders of more autonomous business units once again.
Whether in the long run the new strategy is a good thing for Google or, as some commenters have suggested, a bad thing remains to be seen. There are infinite ways of organizing a company, and in the end, success derives as much, if not more, from execution, as from the shape of an org chart.
But what is good–if Page is indeed implementing a swift and decisive reorg–is that he’s doing just that: making the changes swiftly and decisively. What kills an organization in transition is lack of clarity.
Leaders who attempt to make changes gradually, so as not to upset employees–or customers, or the market–only empower those who wish to resist change. The lack of clarity gives ammunition to those who want to dig in their heels and keep doing things the way they’ve been done for the last upteen years. Without a clear sign from the top that the ship is–whether you like it or not–changing course, resisters can continue paddling in the direction they prefer.
Much better, then, if a massive change is in the works, is to do it quickly, all at once–the “ripping off the band aid” approach, if you will. Sure, it’s painful. And you might scream a bit. But it’s over quickly, and then you can get on with things.
And as for the new org strategy? In Fast Company’s cover article this month on how Page will define Google’s future, Farhad Manjoo discusses the decentralized approach that seems to be emerging and takes a look how it was implemented–under the Schmidt administration–with regard to Android. The mobile operating system, whose market share is growing faster than that of all its competitors, and which just became the leading smartphone platform in the U.S, “is as much,” Manjoo writes, “a marvel of management as it is of engineering.”