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Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter?

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There has been a fundamental question that Google executives had concerned in the early 2000s: do managers matter? Through a multi-year research, they generated a comprehensive project called ‘Project Oxygen’ starting in late 2009—which focuses on eight key managements to become better managers. Consequently, the company was able to trigger significant improvements among managers and realized that “good managers do matter”. Currently, Google’s vice president Mr. Setty raises three fundamental questions about whether the project is ‘boxing people in,’ whether the project could be implemented in any type of organization or managerial setting, and what would be the best option to further improve the project and Google’s performance. The individual plans that the project HR partners design for each manager prove that the project avoids ‘boxing people in’. Rather than constraining, a tailored plan helps each manager’s transition and nurtures cultural norms of the organization. Furthermore, having a set of ‘expected managerial behaviors’ can positively impact an organization if the two fundamental leadership behaviors, initiation structure and consideration (see Appendix I), are achieved.

Google also has guidelines for managers, named’ the Oxygen Eight Behaviors for Great Managers (see Appendix II).’ Since these eight behaviors well sit for the two fundamental leadership behaviors (refer to the table in Appendix II, <Two fundamental leadership barriers>), Project Oxygen well exemplifies the positive impacts of setting the expectations. There are three options through which Google can further develop the project. First, the project can be expanded to include senior managers. This way, the executives can build better relationships with their stakeholders. Also, the feedback system can deliver messages from employees more clearly. On the other hand, applying the quantifying approach to seniors may not be effective because senior managers might already have set good managerial qualities that cannot be quantified. For example, a highly inspiring senior manager can still be strict. It would also be difficult to detect the direct results of the improvement of seniors if the project is expanded. Second, the company could learn more about the complete life cycle of managers. This may help to achieve a clear standard to find out the best candidates for managerial position within and outside.

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