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Excellent case study analysis by top business students.

Solution Googles Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?
1. What kinds of people work at Google? How does this relate to the
organizational culture? What should be the role of HR? What should be the role
of managers?
Google is a company full of engineers. Software engineer Eric Flatt stated that, We are
a company built by engineers for engineers. (Garvin 2) Google also conducts
operations to ensure that they hire top-level talent. Google reviews resumes looking for
key factors for doing well at the company, including excluding high levels of cognitive
ability (Garvin 3). Google is looking for employees that contribute to the companys
human capital. Human capital includes the knowledge, skills, health and values of an
employee (Becker). In addition, Google looks for four things from someone during an
interview: leadership, role-related knowledge, how you think, and googleyness. Google
has many young, high achievers who crave autonomy (Garvin 3). Google has
hardworking, ambitious people that are perfectionists (3).
Google has a culture in which good ideas are celebrated, and authority is derived from
peer respect. (3). This type of respect is also known as referent power. Referent power
is based upon identification with, attraction to, or respect for the leader (Zemsky).
Additionally, Google hires people who are smart and determined, and they favor ability
over experience (Google). Googles organizational culture encourages a very free and
creative environment that allows employees to feel comfortable with sharing ideas and
opinions (Google). Google holds a flat organizational structure. A flat organizational
structure does not place an emphasis on hierarchy and it promotes a culture of
teamwork. Lisa Wirthman of Forbes says, Flat structures work best when a companys
main point of dierentiation is innovation. (Wirthman). This applies directly to Google
because innovation is exactly what they have done since their launch. Innovation deals
with what is desirable to users, what is viable in the marketplace, and what is possible
with technology (Smith 19). Firms must innovate to survive and this is one thing that
Google has done well (Smith 19). Google is constantly looking for new ways to
innovate, create new products on the web, and make searching faster. This is why
Google recruits creative employees because they stimulate an innovative environment.
Furthermore, Google practices the marketing concept. The marketing concept consists

of the total company eort, profit, and customer satisfaction. Google is concerned with
all of these features. In regards to profit, Googles total revenue and operating income
have increased every year between 2001 and 2012. It is clear that Google has the
customers wants in mind because they are the leading search engine in the world. The
total company eort is visible through Googles Oxygen 8 attributes. Google fosters a
teamwork setting and they believe that teamwork leads to better ideas because there
is input from more people. Google applies the marketing concept to their organizational
culture as well.
The role of Human Resources should be to continue to find these employees, develop
them, and keep them working for Google. This is beneficial because it is less costly to
retain employees than to hire new ones. One way that Google does this is by oering
their employees one day a week to work on whatever they choose to. Benefits such as
this boost employees view of the company and inspires them to stay with Google.
The role of Googles managers should be to oversee operations and facilitate
production. Googles managers should make sure that everyone in the company has
great opportunities, and that they feel theyre having a meaningful impact and are
contributing to the good of society (Garvin 4). Managers should also continue to
innovate their relationship with their employees and figure out the best things they can
do for them (Garvin 4).
2. What is your assessment of the Oxygen 8 attributes? Do you think these may
be a source of sustainable competitive advantage (superior long term
performance) for Google? Are they generalizable to other organizations?
The Oxygen 8 attributes are Googles version of the Air Forces core values. Although
the Oxygen 8 is derived from feedback, it lists the eight key attributes essential to the
success of Googles managers, much like core values do in the Air Force. Integrity first,
service before self, and excellence in all we do are the pillars for how the Air Force
wants its members to perform and behave. The Oxygen 8 provides the same guidance,
just in a dierent manner. As far as content goes, the Oxygen 8 attributes are very good
standards to build a company on. All of the attributes are ethical and promote a good
environment that employees want to be a part of. Additionally, these attributes allow
Google to accomplish their positioning statement: Googles mission is to organize the
worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful (Google). This
positioning statement gives Google international opportunities and does not limit them

to one geographical region.

The Oxygen 8 attributes are certainly a source of sustainable competitive advantage for
Google. A competitive advantage exists when a particular company consistently
outperforms other companies in the same industry (Davis). So a sustainable
competitive advantage is just when a company is able to maintain a competitive
advantage for many years. One aspect of a sustainable competitive advantage is that
the product must be rare. The Oxygen 8 attributes are absolutely rare because of the
success that Google has had. Other companies in Googles industry have not been
able to manufacture the same amount of success. Googles Oxygen 8 is hard to imitate
because attributes are about Google, by Google, and for Google (Garvin 6). Therefore,
other companies cannot try to replicate these attributes. If they do, there is a good
chance that it will be unsuccessful because these attributes apply soley to Google.
When a company has managers that follow attributes such as the Oxygen 8, it can only
lead to success. For example, the number one attribute of the Oxygen 8 is being a
good coach. This encloses that the manager caters to the employees skillset and
personality with their guidance and feedback and pushes the employee to grow while
still making the employee feel strongly supported (Garvin 16). This attribute may not
work in other organizations where managers dont fully understand their employees
skillsets or know them on a personal level. Moreover, other organizations may not
provide feedback so this attribute may not be plausible. The second attribute says that
a good manager empowers the team and does not micromanage. This attribute will not
be applicable to other organizations that dont involve teamwork such as competitive
organizations where the employees work alone. Other organizations consider
micromanaging as mandatory because if employees are not monitored every step of
the way, the work will not be done right. Another attribute that is not generalizable to
other organizations is the concept that a good manager helps with career
development. At Google, career development involves developing an employees
expertise. But at other organizations, managers may only be concerned with filling
positions and having the job done correctly. An example of this could be McDonalds. A
manager at McDonalds is unlikely to be concerned with helping an employee become
the best cashier around. The Oxygen 8 attributes contribute as a strength to the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. This is one of
Googles strengths because good management produces good results. A good
example of this is in the NFL. General Managers have to draft new players, figure out
ways to get fans in the stands, hire the right coaching stu, and assemble a team that
can ultimately win a Super Bowl. A General Mangers ability to integrate all of these
elements determines if that team will be successful or not. When General Managers do

a good job of it, as the New England Patriots General Manager Bill Belichick has done,
the result is becoming a Super Bowl champion. A weakness of Googles management
is that there is not consistency across the board. Some managers are worse than
others. But to minimize this weakness, Google implemented Project Oxygen to improve
its managers skill from top to bottom. Due to Googles prosperous management, they
have had great success in regards to revenue. This allows them to pursue
opportunities that many other companies dont have. Google has been able to
manufacture other products such as Google Maps, Google Books, and many more. By
reason of Googles giant market share, they do not experience many threats from other
companies because they are leading the industry. But to continue being on top, Google
has persisted on innovating to stay ahead of the competition.
3. What should Settys priorities be going forward? What criteria should he use to
decide which project to pursue? Which of the proposed initiatives should he
pursue and why?
Going forward, Settys priorities should be look into expanding Project Oxygen to
develop a deeper understanding of the specialized attributes of the most senior
managers of the company such as directors and vice presidents, learn more about the
complete lifecycle of managers at Google, apply people analytics to the study of
teams, and pursue further incremental change and improvement on the management
front. Expanding Project Oxygen to develop a deeper understanding of specialized
attributes will generate a clearer understanding of the attributes and allow senior
managers to internalize them. This way, managers will know how these attributes are
applied at higher levels and to dierent people. Learning more about the complete
lifecycle of managers at Google includes hiring, lateral job transitions, promotions, and
departures. This strategy relates back to human capital again. Applying people
analytics to the study of teams would allow for more production by providing greater
guidance on their composition (Garvin 12). People analytics would be applied
dierently to teams because teams involve many talented people who do not
necessarily manage others (Garvin 12). So the focus of team analytics would be on the
entire composition of the team. Pursuing further incremental change and improvement
on the management front will continue to bring up the average production for fairly
weak managers. This will provide Google with a better consistency of managers all
The criteria that should be used to decide which project to use is: diculty of the

project, project length, cost, resources, probability of success, benefit if the project
succeeds, and damage if the project fails.
If Setty had to choose one of these projects to pursue it should be the project that
helps to learn more about the complete lifecycle of managers at Google. This is
because this project has the most questions associated with it that need to be
answered. Implementing this project could potentially answer all of these questions.
This project also has a good chance of being eective. This project could benefit
Google because it would save them money by keeping managers in the cycle. Instead
of having to hire new ones they could retain the ones they already have. If Google
could do a better job of finding and hiring great managers from outside the company
then they would not have to go through the process of training a new employee from
the ground up. Figuring out a way to identify the best management candidates among
Googles employees will be fruitful in the sense that they will be rewarding and
promoting the right personnel. Since Google is already part of the way to developing
the cycle they envision, this project could take less time than others as well.