Google Organizational Culture

1366 words | 5 page(s)


Organizational culture becomes the central influence in the organization, including how things are done and how people interact, etc. However, it is hard to separate organizational culture from the organizational structure; the former is an abstract system while the latter is the practical actualization of the former. Organizational culture goes hand-in-hand with organizational structure. Organizational structure is the reflection of corporate culture and must, therefore, be consistent with and support organizational culture (Towers, 2008).

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Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world. It is not all about what the company does (i.e. its technological products and services), but also how things are done, i.e. organizational culture and structure; visible and/or invisible controls features associated with the culture and structure; and how these are consistent with the company’s goals and objectives as well as the company’s strategies.

Organizational Culture
Google operates a ‘united’ culture. In this culture, the organization emphasizes a sense of sociability and solidarity. The focus in this respect is not only on the employee-employee relationship but also on the relationship between employees and the management. This culture is manifested in various elements of the company: artifacts, beliefs and values and underlying assumptions, etc. These are “visible structures and processes, espoused beliefs and values to the strategies, goals and philosophies, and underlying assumptions to the unconscious beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings of individuals within the organization” (Towers, 2008, p.3).

Organizational Structure and Openness
Google was founded by young and dynamic individuals, and young people are known to ‘not like’ rules or rigid boundaries. As such, management at the company reflects this, even as the founders get older and older. Therefore, the managerial structure hardly exhibits any hierarchy, i.e. formal institutions. Instead, the company’s management reflects an open door policy, in which every member of the organization has a voice. Everyone is motivated to share about problems and actual situation (Weber, 2009).

Fun Mood
The founders want to create a workplace that is “fun … to work in” (Weber, 2009, p.5).The general mood is relaxed. This is reflected in the various elements in the organization, including the workers dress code. For instance, Towers (2008) describes the company’s dress code as “disheveled students look” (p.4). Moreover, the company has recreational facilities for its employees. For example, there is a once-a-week roller hockey and regular volleyball games. There are also workout gyms, ping pong and assorted video games, etc. There are also free food and food corners. The food at the company’s cafeteria is said to be so good that employees from the neighboring Yahoo are rumored to sneak in to eat there.

This culture of fun and relaxation has served the company in a number of important ways. For one, it means the company remains an attractive employer for many young people. In fact, the company remains an attractive spot for the country’s brightest young minds, with the majority of the company’s employees being individuals who are just out of the university. Moreover, the company has made sure that this culture of fun- which has been there since the company was founded- stays by undertaking strategic recruitment of the right sort of people, who will fit in and help to maintain the same culture (Kuntze & Matulich, 2010).

Creativity and Innovativeness
The culture and structure are ideas for what the company wants in their employees: creativity and innovativeness. To do that, the company want to allow its employees a flexible work time, characterized by a certain level of autonomy and freedom. The company, therefore, allows it employees to spend 20 percent of their work time on self-directed projects (Kuntze & Matulich, 2010).

But the company is also focused on encouraging a learning culture at the organization. To do this, the company seeks to encourage extensive interaction among employees. For instance, the company encourages ‘Googlers’ to communicate extensively. Strong communication is believed to be central to teamwork, which is another valued element at the company. Indeed, communication is central to learning, and the best source of knowledge is the individual, i.e. employees (Weber, 2009).

This emphasis on teamwork and a focus on encouraging employee interaction and teamwork is reflected in the company’s project structure. Work in the company is organized into projects, whose leaders are moved to other projects from time to time. Moreover, every team member is expected to take an active part in the project. While there is value in collaboration, individuals are also encouraged to be themselves and bring their uniqueness into the teamwork. The overall intention is that team members collaborate, but also bring their individual strengths to the projects. Moreover, Google’s personnel department focuses on individual skills. For example, the department focuses on employee intelligence. This is measured in two ways. First, the candidates are considered on the basis of universities they attended (i.e. Top Elite universities, like Harvard and Stanford, etc.), and they (the candidates) should be the best of their years, and are many times recommended by their professors. Secondly, the company has a contest for programmers, with the finalists fighting for various positions in the company (Weber, 2009).

Most importantly, and explicitly in line with the organization’s culture and structure, the company allows absolute freedom to the team members on how to organize workflow within their teams and projects. In other words, the teams are self-responsible for their goals and organization and work. This includes dealing with their own problems. Hammond (2003) observes, “If something isn’t right, even if it’s a product that has already gone public, teams fix it without asking anyone” (p.74).

To enhance employee commitment to the company, Google gives all its employees stock options. This makes each employee a part of the company, giving them a sense of ownership. Moreover, employees are also involved in the recruiting process; they make referrals and are paid for referrals.

Control Features
However, this kind of workplace can pose significant risks. In the case of Google, it does not translate to some kind of anarchy, which could pose risks to quality and even the company’s financial reserves. Generally, there is hardly any publicly available information on the company’s control features, one can still justifiably assume that the company has in place certain control features to govern in some way what can be done, and to what extent. The company must certainly have some form of control of its budget. The company focuses on quality. For example, the company spends 15 percent of its annual expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) (Reed, 2015).

Organizational culture- embodied in organizational structure- is a key factor in a company’s pursuit of its goals and objectives, and the effort to fully implement its strategies. At Google, the management seems to know what works: as a tech company it relies on constant innovation; young people tend to be the most innovative; and rigid structures- unlike flexible structures- are detrimental to creativity, etc. Therefore, the company has adopted the culture that will enable it to have a competitive advantage in the pursuit for the best young minds. The company has a flexible structure, characterized by open-door policy; encourages its employees to have fun at work and provides the facilities for this; encourages a balance between individual autonomy (self-realization) as well employee interaction and teamwork, etc. It may be hard to measure how culture and performance are related. However, using Google as a case study, one can see that the company has continued to enjoy remarkable success despite its culture- which may seem reckless against the backdrop of traditional organizational structures. Therefore, we can infer that the company owes its success to its culture and structure.

  • Hammonds, K. (2003). How Google grows… and grows… and grows. Fast Company Magazine, 69, 74
  • Kuntze, R., &Matulich, E. (2010). Google: searching for value. Journal of Case Research in Business and Economics, 1-10
  • Reed, B. (2015). How Apple stays ahead of the game without spending top dollar on R&D. BGR, Nov. 30. Retrieved 07 May 2016, http://bgr.com/2015/11/30/apple-vs-google-r-and-d-spending/
  • Towers, D. (2008). An investigation into whether organizational culture is directly linked to motivation and performance through looking at Google Inc., The University of Birmingham: The Birmingham Business School
  • Weber, S. (2009). Organizational behavior- Google corporate culture in perspective, GRIN Scholarly Paper

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