Top management lessons learned at Google

Juniper_Innovations_supply_chain_business_analysis2Google alumni are spreading lessons learned across the tech industry so Jay Yarow, from Business Insider decided to reach out to few ex-employees to get tips on how other organisations can improve.

Summarising the list, we’ve asked, how applicable are some of these tips to supply chains?

1. Don’t hire just because you have an opening or vacancy

Hire smart people who have achieved in their careers and be stubborn about this.  Just because no-one has negative comments about a candidate isn’t a reason to hire them.

This also means maintaining high hiring quality over the longer term even when a functional area is desperately short staffed.

In practice, supply chains often talk about wanting to hire the best candidates however we’ve seen many companies blame industry reputation and culture, budgetary constraints and supply scarcity as reasons why top management and graduate talent isn’t hired.  Similarly order fulfillment, service levels and customer commercial agreements are often reasons adding pressure for supply chains to plug vacancy gaps as they simply need people to help manufacture, manage, control and move product.  But are things ever really that bad that the Google lesson can’t be learned?

2. Focus on the long term

Google focuses on the long term, from investing in people and bleeding edge infrastructure to brand investment.

Does your supply chain follow these trends or rather be concerned about the here and now, cutting costs and getting longer mileage from old technology?

As examples, are employees using:

  • Broken or faulty barscode scanners?
  • Slow computers or putting up with slow or patchy internet connections?
  • Software with insufficient functionality due to logon restrictions?
  • Manual software workarounds?
  • Spending hours of weekly time manually updating spreadsheets when this work could be automated?
  • Using out of date help manuals?
  • Following old procedures because new ones haven’t been updated?
  • Sharing assets and technology because “there isn’t enough to go round?”
  • Continually raising support requests for software functionality or worse still, not raising support requests on the basis that “nothing will get done.”

We’ve seen this across supply chains and it’s nothing that a good healthy dose of business analysis can’t sort out.  Can you make improvements?

3. Inspire employees

Google is inspirational in the way it allows employees to create innovation rather than using a “stick” approach to generate ideas.

Can more be done in your office and operational environments to ensure you have a culture of deep trust and respect, inspire creativity, generate new ideas, make systems and operational improvements and have an environment enabling ideas to be thought through, implemented and benefits realised?

You don’t have to be a large corporation to generate staff enthusiasm and quality ideas either.  Just look at the retailer Richer Sounds’ world records on this subject to see that.

4. Use data to make decisions

How many decisions have you made based on instinct or opinion?  This is rather than using data and business analysis to show you’re going in the right direction.  From operational improvements to hardware purchases and systems selection and implementation, are your decisions based on data and in line with business goals?  Or do personalities and hierarchical views bias what goes on?  Are judgements being made due to time pressures or lack of problem solving focus?  Or are you even struggling to gather the data and put it in a format so that decisions can be made?  Maybe your company stock management, supply chain planning or shipment tracking data is spread across disparate systems and cannot easily or quickly be combined?

Google believes in using data to make decisions.  Is there a lesson here for your supply chain?

5. Get everyone on board

Google prides itself on being democratic and having a concensus of opinion.  This is in order to accomplish business and product changes.  Is this also true of your supply chain?  Do you have functional alignment between sales, marketing, manufacturing, warehousing and shipping?  Even on an operational level are S&OP, production execution or warehousing decisions made on a consensus level?

How much information is shared between functions and over what regularity?  What difference could large or small changes make if sales, marketing, planning, operational and distribution data was shared across your supply chain?  Are you being told this is not possible or is this issue being avoided?

Can your supply chain be improved?

6. Grow people

Or rather, give people the chance to grow.  Google creates opportunities for growth as well as opportunites for perks & fun.

Google isn’t the only organisation to see the benefits in growing people however how strong are your processes giving people the chance to grow?

This allows scope for ideas generation, implementing solutions to problems regularly, being recognised and maybe rewarded for the effort and results.  It could impact local organisational and even company strategic direction.

Can you do more to create further learning opportunities, improve career paths, inspire personal development and grow your employee’s potential?  Or as we’ve seen before, are there too many people in your supply chain or organisation that consider themselves “there just to do a job?

7. Be transparent

Do you have weekly review meetings allowing everyone and anyone to ask questions?  Does this include cross functional meetings and anonymous staff feedback?  Or do you have concerns about how to manage the administration, disruption or negativity?

Are staff briefings a formality, particularly in operational environments?  Are they used just as a way to tell people what the company wants them to know at a point in time without engaging with employees or necessarily being transparent?  Or in office based roles is there a total reliance on the company intranet or other websites to find out “what is going on?”

Can your supply chain improve with greater transparency or are you being held back by technology or lack of time?

8. Take HR seriously

At Google this includes:

  • Having recruitment interview methodology and supporting questions
  • Ensuring interviews are recorded in detail with notes always being passed on
  • Recruitment interview notes are reviewed at the highest level in the company and rigorous standards applied before offers are made
  • Once on the books, 5-10 peers review each employee’s performance as does the line manager
  • Managers propose employee performance review ratings however these compared to those employees at the same level, then reviewed in a bell curve distribution to reduce bias and show best & worst performers
  • Retention rates and feedback surveys are passed to managers and compared to other groups and the company as a whole
  • Administration is automated to lessen hassle

In contrast, is your HR tracking:

  • Predominantly paper based?
  • Contain insufficient interview and survey feedback?
  • Generally only read by limited people, at infrequent intervals?
  • Used on a regular basis for making improvement decisions?
  • Contributing to an overall company picture?

Or can you make improvements?

9. Finding the best, not the biggest partners for your company

Doing due diligence isn’t all about finding vendors that everyone else uses then negotiating a lower price.  Google selected a CRM system on the basis that it was being designed by friends who bespoked the system around Google’s needs.  The result was a custom system that Google considered better than anything else on the market.

The result of this was to look to large suppliers when high calibre, smaller companies couldn’t be found.

Something we’d advocate.  Here, here!

10. Have an exciting future

This is interesting for Google given their competion such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also have exciting futures!

To keep the bar high however organisation’s supply chains can seriously help differentiate one company from another.  So if you need to show the marketplace a genuine point of difference, look at the value added activities in your supply management and operations and keep raising the bar.