Google is risk averse & has paralyzing bureaucracy, executives say

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Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is facing internal criticism from company executives who believe the Mountain View giant is seeing "cracks" in its success, according to a new report.

Credit: Google
Credit: Google


A group of Google executives are becoming increasingly concerned about the company's leadership, as well as the size of the firm, according to a report in The New York Times. Since 2020, at least 36 Google vice presidents have left the company. Some of them are vocal about why.

"If I had to summarize it, I would say that the signal to noise ratio is what wore me down," wrote Noam Bardin, a Google executive who departed in February. "The innovation challenges ... will only get worse as the risk tolerance will go down."

Several other Google executives told The New York Times that the company is suffering from a number of issues related to its size and maturity, including a "paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception."

For example, several of the anonymous executives said that Google made decision slowly because Pichai delayed action while chewing over decisions.

However, there doesn't appear to be a consensus among Google executives. Several told The New York Times that they were happy with Pichai's leadership.

"Would I be happier if he made decisions faster? Yes," said Caesar Sengupta, a former Google VP who left in March. "But am I happy that he gets nearly all of his decisions right? Yes."

In 2018, a number of top Google executives penned an email warning that the company was in the midst of significant growing pains. Although it did not explicitly call Pichai out, it did suggest that Google needed more decisive leadership.

Some examples of the company's risk aversion includes what insiders describe as a perpetual state of research and development. Google product teams will prepare products to hide away until a rival debuts something new and Google needs to respond. Internally, this is known as "pantry mode."

Other employees criticized Google's "lack of courage" with diversity. For example, after Google executive Timnit Gebru was allegedly fired for criticizing Google's approach to minority hiring, the company was slow to issue an apology after a backlash to her dismissal.

A few Google executives offered a defense of the company's slow-moving decision-making. It took about a year before Google decided to acquire Fitbit, for example. That's because Pichai had identified issues with the deal that other executives, including Google VP Sameer Samat, didn't see.

"I could see how those multiple discussions could make somebody feel like we're slow to make decisions," said Samat. "The reality is that these are very large decisions."

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    bleepobleepo Posts: 2member
    Doesn’t this prove that Google is a public utility after all? Paralyzing bureaucracy, risk averse, fixation on public perception. That says it all. 
    DAalsethcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    What innovation?
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 7
    Pretty much what you'd expect. And I don't think you can attach a value statement to what is being said. Companies get older and cultures and expectations change. Sort of like happens in life to all of us. Companies have lifespans too. At least when it comes to them being important, culturally relevant, able to move quickly. You can't do that when you have 130,000 + employees. It's actually a good thing, because that opens space for new companies and new ways of doing things. The trendsetter eventually becomes status quo. Look at just the last 30 years of tech history at the number of companies that were HUGE and today are irrelevant or less relevant or gone completely.

    I think the fact that when companies grow large they ossify is an important aspect of a healthy business ecosystem. And it's more than just 'competition is good' because that isn't always true. It's simply a matter that what a company can do well changes and being large increases certain negatives.
    BeatsStrangeDaysOferthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,461member
    Beats said:
    What innovation?
    More innovative ways to grab your data without you knowing about it.
    StrangeDaysGabycornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 7
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,768member
    I think those barges had a far greater effect on Google's corporate culture than people think.  I can't think of any other corporate project that is as bizarre, ridiculous, and wasteful as those barges.  Google got gun shy after that fiasco and it marked the beginning of the end of the endless parade of Google beta products that would get hyped up then disappear.
    edited June 21 thtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 7
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member
    This is what happens when you build a company of “really smart” “thinkers” and “managers” rather than “doers”. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 289member
    So not much has changed since 2011??
    https://gist.github.com/chitchcock/1281611


    watto_cobra
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