Google’s Teams Through the Looking Glass

By Reagan Wheeler

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Photo Credit:  www.randomhistory.com

This case study will look at the well-known organization, Google (National Geo…, n.d.) and its Project Aristotle. It will describe common qualities contained in effective teams and how I myself have experienced those qualities when working in a group or team. I will then critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the styles of management that I have experienced.

 

Project Aristotle began in 2012 and was conducted by Abeer Dubey, who was a manager in Google’s People Analytics Division. The purpose of the study was to determine why some of the organization’s teams succeeded and why some of them didn’t. Google realized that teams are fundamental in an organization. They wanted to look at their own company and see which employees worked best together in order to have that strong team aspect (Duhigg, 2016).

Researchers looked at many different things such as, how often did teammates talk and spend time together outside of the office, did they have similar educational backgrounds or the same hobbies. They also studied which teams were going beyond their department goals, if gender had anything to do with their success and how long certain teams would stay together. What they found was that is was pretty impossible to determine if creating teams showed any pattern of success. They saw that the data they gathered couldn’t show if specific qualities made a difference.

The highly ranked teams of Google were made up of people who were friends outside or work, had different types of hierarchal structure, people who were practically strangers and were all completely different. So there really was no pattern for the researchers to look at. Later on in the study, they came across something called group norms. It was discovered that influencing group norms was the way to improving the teams inside Google. Even after discovering this, they were still stuck. Now, instead of having no patterns, they had too many (Duhigg, 2016).

These results mean that when forming a team there are many different things that contribute to its success. Sometimes the norms don’t make sense and sometimes they do. So it will be hard at times when trying to form effective teams. A team needs to take into account what type of group they are or want to be. I think an effective type of group is an emergent group because if everyone has shared interests and expertise then each person will have something to contribute. Each person will have ideas and will be engaged in the project at hand. An effective function for this type of small group would be quality improvement. This function determines ways to improve and organization in its effectiveness, efficiency and productivity (Basics of Quality…, n.d. ).

I think the findings from Project Aristotle were accurate in a lot of ways. I do think that there are so many patterns when it comes to teams that it’s really not possible to say what makes them effective. In my opinion, the qualities that make a team effective are going to vary with every team I’m in. They are always going to be changing.

A time when I felt that I had been a part of an effective team was my sophomore year of college at Ashland University. I was in a group project for one of my communication classes and we all met to talk about what we needed to do. We assigned each person with one part of the project to research and type up. Then once everyone had done their part we would each post it into one Google doc. After that, we met again as a group and went over everything, correcting, editing, and giving suggestions on how to make it better for out presentation. We did very well with the orientation, brainstorming, emergence and reinforcement of our team. I think that’s why it was so effective.

A way the findings would influence how I decide things if I was leading a work team is when I’m determining what dynamics are effective (Re:Work…, n.d.). I need to make sure I have an effective dynamic or things could go wrong. For example, if I was too overpowering or bossy in the group then the other members might not put in any effort. I would make sure that there was a high level of dependability within the team and make sure everyone knows what’s going on. I think all of these things would help my team be more effective.

References

Basics of Quality Improvement. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2016, from http://www.aafp.org/practice-management/improvement/basics.html

Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?_r=1

National Geographic – Inside Google (High-Definition). (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2016, from https://vimeo.com/55885729

Re:Work – Guide: Understand team effectiveness. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2016, from https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/understanding-team-effectiveness/steps/identify-dynamics-of-effective-teams

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