We do everything to minimize the authority and power of the manager in making a hiring decision,. A person with an opening on her team, for instance, may have short-term needs that arent aligned with the companys long-term interests. The metaphor is, if you need an administrative assistant, youre going to be really picky the first week, and at six months, youre going to take anyone you can get,. Google also tries to point out predictable traps in performance reviews, which are often done with input from a group. The company has compiled a list of cognitive biases for employees to keep handy during these discussions. For example, somebody may have just had a bad experience with the person being reviewed, and that one experience inevitably trumps recollections of all the good work that person has done in recent months. Theres also the halo/horns effect, in which a single personality trait skews someones perception of a colleagues performance.
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Mark Klenk, an engineering manager whom google made available for an interview, said the Project Oxygen findings, and the subsequent training, helped him understand the importance of giving clear and direct feedback to the people he supervises. There are cases with some personalities where they are not necessarily realizing they need a course correction,. So its just about being really clear about saying,. K., i understand what you are doing here, but lets talk about the results, and this biography pollution is the goal. . Im doing that a lot more, he says, adding that the people he manages seem to like. Ive gotten direct feedback where theyve thanked me for being clear. Google executives say they arent crunching all this data to develop some algorithm of successful management. The point, they say, is to provide the data and to make people aware of it, so that managers can understand what works and, just as important, what doesnt. The traps can show up in areas like hiring. Managers often want to hire people who seem just like them. So google compiles elaborate dossiers on candidates from the interview process, and hiring decisions are made by a group.
Because of that heavy hand, this manager was denied a promotion he wanted, and was told that his style was the reason. But google gave him one-on-one coaching — the company has coaches on staff, rather than hiring from the outside. Six months later, team members were grudgingly acknowledging in surveys that the manager had improved. Photo michelle donovan, left, and Prasad Setty were on the team that led googles management effectiveness project. And a year later, its actually quite resume a bit better,. Its still not great. Hes nowhere near one of our best managers, but hes not our worst anymore. And he got promoted.
It paid off quickly. We were able to have a statistically significant mini improvement in manager quality for 75 percent of our worst-performing managers,. He tells the story of one manager whose employees seemed to despise him. He was driving them too hard. They found him bossy, entry arrogant, political, secretive. They wanted to quit his team. Hes brilliant, but he did everything wrong when it came to leading a team,.
The final step was to code and synthesize all those results — more than 400 pages of interview notes — and then they spent much of last year rolling out the results to employees and incorporating them into various training programs. The process of reading and coding all the information was time-consuming. This was one area where computers couldnt help, says Michelle donovan, a manager of people analytics who was involved in the study. People say theres software that can help you do that, she says. Its been our experience that you just have to get in there and read. Given the familiar feel of the list of eight qualities, the project might have seemed like an exercise in reinventing the wheel. But google generally prefers, for better or worse, to build its own wheels. We want to understand what works at google rather than what worked in any other organization, says Prasad Setty, googles vice president for people analytics and compensation. Once google had its list, the company started teaching it in training programs, as well as in coaching and performance review sessions with individual employees.
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People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them. The first is that they dont feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters. The second is that they dont really like or respect their co-workers. The third is they have a terrible boss — and this was the biggest variable. Google, where performance reviews are done quarterly, rather than annually, saw huge swings in the ratings that employees gave to their bosses. Managers also had a much greater impact on employees performance and how they felt about their job than any other factor, google found. The starting point was that our best managers have teams that perform better, are retained better, are happier — they do everything better,.
So the biggest controllable factor that we could see was the quality of the manager, and how they sort of made things happen. The question we then asked was: What if every manager was that good? And then you start saying: Well, what makes them that good? And how do you do it? In Project Oxygen, the statisticians gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers — across more than 100 variables, from media various performance reviews, feedback surveys and other reports. Then they spent time coding the comments in order to look for patterns. Once they had some working theories, they figured out a system for interviewing managers to gather more data, and to look for evidence that supported their notions.
But a growing number of companies are trying to apply a data-driven approach to the unpredictable world of human interactions. Google is really at the leading edge of that, says Todd Safferstone, managing director of the. Corporate leadership council of the, corporate Executive board, who has a good perch to see what. Executives at more than 1,000 big companies are. Photo laszlo bock of google says its study found that a bosss technical expertise was less important than being accessible.
Credit Peter dasilva for The new York times. Project Oxygen is also unusual,. Safferstone says, because it is based on googles own data, which means that it will feel more valid to those google employees who like to scoff at conventional wisdom. Many companies, he explained, adopt generic management models that tell people the roughly 20 things they should do as managers, without ranking those traits by importance. Those models often suffer a lot of organ rejection in companies, he added, because they are not presented with any evidence that they will make a difference, nor do they prioritize what matters. Most companies are better at exhorting you to be a great manager, rather than telling you how to be a great manager,. Project oxygen started with some basic assumptions.
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Much more important is just making that connection and daddy being accessible. Project Oxygen doesnt fit neatly into the usual google story line of hits (like its search engine) and misses (like the start last year of buzz, its stab at social networking). Management is much squishier to yardage analyze, after all, and the topic often feels a bit like golf. You can find thousands of tips and rules for how to become a better golfer, and just as many for how to become a better manager. Most of them seem to make perfect sense. Problems start when you try to keep all those rules in your head at the same time — thus the golf cliché, paralysis by analysis. In management, as in golf, the greats make it all look effortless, which only adds to the sense of mystery and frustration for those who struggle to get better. That caveat aside, project Oxygen is noteworthy for a few reasons, according to academics and experts in this field. Has long run on gut instincts more than hard data.
Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, theyll ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place. Bocks group found that technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer thesis code in your sleep — ranked dead last among googles big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees lives and careers. In the google context, wed always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,. It turns out that thats absolutely the least important thing. Its important, but pales in comparison.
first reaction was, thats it? Says Laszlo bock, googles vice president for people operations, which is googlespeak for human resources. Bock and his team began ranking those eight directives by importance. And this is where Project Oxygen gets interesting. For much of its 13-year history, particularly the early years, google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: leave people alone.
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