Good Case Study On Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?
Project Oxygen was done in Google to determine if managers matter in the company. This study was implemented to know how managers influence their team members in the progression of the company. The said project is vital for the ever growing company, which has a $37.9 billion revenue. With the continuous partnership and expansion the headcount of the company has increased. In this regard, Project Oxygen aims to identify the characteristics of a good manager based on the surveys given by People and Innovative Lab (PILab) and the teams from the people operations. The said teams made two types of surveys, which are as follows: the Upward Feedback survey (UFS) for global business organization and the Tech Managers Survey given for the engineering group. Answers to the surveys were generally positive but there were some points that managers should consider for improvement. The eight characteristics that emerged from the survey, which constituted a high- ranking manager are the following: (1) being a good coach; (2) expressing interest in the members’ success and personal well-being; (3) helping team members for career development; (4) being a good communicator; (5) being productive and results oriented; (6) developing a clear vision/ strategy for the team; (7) advising the team in using their key technical skills; and (8) empowering the team members. The results of the study, in general, helped to prove that managers are really needed in the company and that they have an impact on their members. The results also gave the company the idea on how to retain good employees through their best managers and to make their managers effective and be the best at what they do. For this initiative, Google developed trainings and awards to help managers become better at being a manager in their team or department. However, the company still looks for other ways to produce good managers for the company.
Google’s Culture for the Employees
Because of the continuous expansion of Google, employees were organized into three groups: engineering, global business organization (sales) and general and administrative (G&A). The company’s bigger population of employees consists of the engineers since it is a company built for engineers mostly. Engineers find it tasking on their part to report to a manager. They think of it as just a waste of time. Hence, they tried to make a flat organization where everybody can go directly to the person they have a business with. However, a company can’t do that for the whole operation. They really need someone to direct them to the goals they want to attain.
A rigorous screening for applicants is done to ensure that employees are well-rounded with the skills and the knowledge that Google needs. The company is one of the trendiest companies in the United States. It gives generous compensation, such as a base salary, bonus, stock options, and a lot of benefits and perks. Moreover, they provide their employees with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also provide a Wi-Fi enabled bus so that employees won’t have to wait for other buses, enabling them to commute easily from their work and home. Google has a one-of-a-kind bundle of perks that will make an employee stay.
Characteristics of Google Employees
Google is an adaptable company; hence, their employees should also reflect the same characteristic. They want to have a pool of the best employees; thus, applicants must have top level talents and high cognitive skills. In the process of hiring, the lucky applicants again will be assessed to determine whether they have initiative, flexibility, a collaborative spirit, and evidences of being well-rounded. These characteristics are the traits of a Googley.
The company commends good ideas that are developed from peer respect. They described themselves as ambitious, perfectionists, and hardworking. Although there are competitions in the company, they still enjoy working together. Since the company provides the best benefits for the employees, it has become a training ground for young, intelligent people. These people are hungry for autonomy. They are willing to be on top always; hence, managers who do not know how to handle their positions fail.
Implementation of Project Oxygen
The project was implemented by PiLab and with the core team of Patel, Donovan, and Kurkoski. The Project Oxygen team gathered data from previous employees to know if the reason of their leaving is about management issues. They found some connections between the low satisfaction level with one’s manager and the turnover rate, as well as a correlation between the satisfaction with one’s manager and retention. However, the results were low so they were unable to conclude that it speaks for the whole Google company. In this regard, the Project Oxygen team modified the results and divided them into ‘high scoring managers’ and ‘low scoring managers’.
The results of the project made the team excited because they found that there are significant differences between high scoring managers and low scoring managers and that there is a substantial impact on job satisfaction, retention, and performance. Moreover, it was discovered that high scoring managers have a lower employee turnover rate compared to low scoring managers. In sum, the PiLab team found that a group with high scoring managers performs well in terms of innovation, work life balance, and career development.
Exhibit 3 presented the verbatim quotes of the employees for 8 behaviors of a great manager which are as follows: (1) is a good coach; (2) empowers the team and does not micromanage; (3) expresses interests/concerns for team members’ success and personal well-being; (4) is productive and results-oriented; (5) is a good communicator; (6) helps with career development; (7) has a clear vision/ strategy for the team; and (8) has the key technical skills that help him/her advise the team.
According to Pingree (2008), a great manager has the following characteristics: (1) concern about safety, health and physical welfare of the employee; (2) creates cooperation; (3) creates morale; (4) trains and develops employees; (5) reports and records; and (6) performs balanced supervision.
Priorities in Moving Forward
Setty is determined to use the results of Project Oxygen in improving the company. The first thing that he will do is to expand Project Oxygen in order to develop a deeper understanding of the specialized attributes of the most senior manager of the company like the directors and the vice-presidents. The leadership of senior managers should be used as an inspiration to other newly- hired managers.
Setty also deemed it important to understand that it would be helpful to learn the lifecycle of managers, which includes hiring, lateral job transitions, promotions and departures. Setty wanted to identify potential great manager applicants inside and outside the company. He wanted to make sure that who they hire possesses the e behaviors of a great manager. Setty’s team is also analyzing and reviewing the company’s capability in rewarding top managers so that they can be retained.
Another realization that Setty has is the inclusion of analytics in the study of team. He thinks that it is important to study the combination of people who can work side by side with others, which will make for a great team.
Lastly, Setty sees that it is vital to be engaged in making incremental changes and improvements in the company’s management. They tried to lessen the variance of managers and management skills. They are still trying to discover what drives people transformation from being good to great managers. Setty would like to get to know the managers better through observation and researches with the use of the ethnographic approach. They won’t be able to follow, observe, and interview people but they will be able to somewhat understand what managers and employees experience.
The Challenge in Creating “Truly Amazing Managers”
A comment that was left in Setty’s mind from Larry Page was that Google should be growing the leaders that the world needs. Setty fears that Project Oxygen may be constraining and putting people in boxes; hence, the question in his mind is how they will create truly amazing managers.
Since Project Oxygen was able to unearth the 8 behaviors of managers, Cincotta (2014) added 7 traits to turn good managers into great managers, which did not surface from the answers in the survey. The 7 traits given by Cincotta are the following: (1) having a great attitude especially in handling difficult situations at work since this will reflect their temperament; (2) being transparent, which means being vocal and straightforward so as not to let rumors circulate in the workplace; (3) demonstrating maturity, especially in regulating strong feelings; (4) being flexible, especially with the ever changing trends in society; (5) taking accountability for their action as well as for their employees; (6) being a hands-on manager since they have to first do what they implement; and (7) developing great talents among their constituents in order to contribute to the company’s progress.
Cincotta, C. (2014). 7 Traits to turn good managers into great managers. Retrieved from
Pingree, L. (2008). The manager’s guide to being great. New York: iUniverse, Inc.
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