Page’s Decentralized Google Gambit

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google_recruiting_small.jpgADOTAS – In rock & roll, there are few phrases that make me gag as hard as “getting back to their roots.” When a band tries to mine that initial sound or energy that first got them noticed, it’s a sign that they’ve reached the bottom of the creative well.

So color me skeptical about renewed CEO Larry Page’s effort to rejuvenate Google, and get back the nimbleness and energy that ran rampant during its startup days.

He isn’t having the best first week. Yesterday the company doled out $900 million for patents in a preventive measure while learning that the Federal Trade Commission is considering an antitrust suit over Google’s search business — but only if the Justice Department doesn’t file one first.

Then Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president of product management and supposedly one of the most powerful people at the company, resigned. But that may have been part of the Page program.

The official word is that Page wanted long-term commitments from senior staff — which is understandable since either Facebook is poaching them or they’re bailing the Google ship to join startups — and Rosenberg declined for family reasons. Interestingly, Page, cofounder Sergey Brin and board chair and former CEO Eric Schmidt have signed an agreement to stay at Google until 2024.

But Business Insider points out that Rosenberg’s job didn’t seem necessary under a new Page regime. “Much of Rosenberg’s job under Google’s old CEO, Eric Schmidt, was to run interference between product managers and top executives. Larry Page, who plans to focus on product and likes to work with product managers directly, won’t need that kind of intermediary.”

Page has apparently streamlined the management system to make one of the “most powerful” Googlers redundant just like that. This may be a sign of Page’s intentions to de-centralize the Google managerial system so its various divisions are more autonomous, like the successful Android division. Call it a “state’s rights” play.

Google “[r]eimagined like this, this would mean more powerful unit line execs, mostly engineers, doing what needs to be done to succeed, less burdened by the need to vet every little effort through various managers of Google’s powerful operating committee,” explains John Paczkowski on All Things D.

But I keep thinking about Google Buzz, which recently earned Google a wrist slap in the form of data privacy audits from the FTC. Wasn’t the problem there engineers rolling out a product too quickly without enough vetting?

Page wants to return to startup-like mindset, but Google is not a startup. It’s a huge corporation with its fingers in many pots. Is centralized bureaucracy really the problem?

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Larry, I’m sure the last thing you want is for Google’s Search to become the first part of the empire to fail…your new “improved” algorithm is only 180 degrees off as far as we are concerned…for the past 10 years(at least) Google has sent us 77.5% of our traffic, and AdSense a big chunk of our revenue…but since February 24 your quality of search results has tanked, with scrapers and cheats rewarded with top rankings and old partners like The Auto Channel trying to figure out what we did to piss off Larry and his boys and girls.

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