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July 13, 2011

Free Answers From Google On How CIOs Can Be Better Managers

 Google Has Been Searching For What Makes A Good Manager

Google Has Been Searching For What Makes A Good Manager

One of the biggest challenges that modern CIOs face is how to do a good job of managing their IT department. The burden of making the right technology decisions, managing budgets, and meeting the needs of the rest of the company is challenging enough, but what can make or break a CIO is how good of a job you do nurturing and growing your staff. The folks at Google have the same issues and they’ve harnessed their immense computing power to come up with a solution…

How Google Solved The Riddle Of IT Management

I’m not sure if you’ve been reading the news lately, but Google’s been having a problem: they are starting to lose their IT employees. Once upon a time Google was the coolest place on the planet to work, but things have changed.

With the arrival of cooler places to work (i.e. Facebook), folks have been defecting from Google in droves. Adam Bryant reports that this may be one of the reasons that some of the Google number crunchers were tasked to work on a new project in early 2009: Project Oxygen.

This team was charged with crunching all of the data that Google had gathered in order to determine what characteristics of bosses the Google employees were looking for. Basically Google wanted to know what makes someone a good boss.

To determine this, the team wrote code to process all of the performance reviews, results from employee feedback surveys, and nomination forms for top managers. What they were looking for were words and phrases that dealt with either praise or complaints.

What Google Found Out

At Google, technical expertise has always been what they’ve valued in their employees the most. Managers there were encouraged to be hands-off types of managers – don’t hold your people back. The thinking was that if workers got stuck, they could then reach out to their bosses for help because it was assumed that their bosses had deeper technical skills.

Well guess what, they got it wrong! It turns out that what IT workers were really looking for is what we’ve always been told that a manager should be: involved.

Here are the top 5 most important characteristics of an effective IT leader as uncovered by Google’s data mining efforts:

  1. Be a good coach
  2. Empower your teams and don’t micromanage
  3. Express interest in team member’s success and personal well-being
  4. Don’t be a sissy: be productive and results orientated.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.

What All Of This Means For You

I guess what Google found out shouldn’t really come to any of us as that much of a surprise. I think that we always knew that the secret to successfully managing an IT department had to be the same secret that every other department in the company was trying to uncover.

Google started out thinking that the ability to master technology was the answer and ended up with a completely different answer – it’s the human touch in the end that is the most important. I believe that this lends a lot of creditability to their findings.

CIOs need to step back for a minute and think about what this means: we’ve got to start to take the time to truly connect with our staff if we want them to experience true job satisfaction. I believe that we can all do this, it’s just that we all need to take the time to do it right!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you agree that a CIO’s technical skills are less important than their “soft” people skills?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

To read the IT trade journals or speak with CIOs you’d think that we’ve all found the magic silver bullet that IT’s been looking for during the past few years: server virtualization. The ability to mash together a bunch of different expensive individual servers and shrink the company’s IT footprint down by a factor of 5x while reducing power and cooling costs at the same time sure seems to be a miracle cure for IT budget problems. Guess what: this isn’t Hogwarts and you’re not Harry Potter. Virtualization has its own set of problems and we need to have a talk…

7 Comments on “Free Answers From Google On How CIOs Can Be Better Managers

Andrew Anderson
July 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm

This obviously maps directly to your essay of June 29th…not only do good coders not necessarily interested in being managers, but they aren’t necessarily good at managing, either.

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