Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Google way vs. Microsoft way

Sanaz Ahari is a program manager at Microsoft, working on live.com portal; originally it started as start.com but then was included in “Windows Live” branding push. Nowadays, as far as I can understand, start.com is supposed to be a testing groud for components to be included in live.com, which is, however, still called “beta”.

Anyway, I just read an entry on her blog, with some comments comparing her today’s work to the start.com days:

one thing i would say is:
during start.com it was all about: experiment, iterate and improve a concept and make customers happy by listening to them. and who did everything: a few ppl, end-to-end for design, pm, dev, test, planning, marketing – everyone basically wore all the hats.

live.com: it’s different. there are many more stakeholders, some justifiably so and some maybe not. so many stakeholders that it’s hard to keep track. some are stakeholders and some think they are. the biggest challenge is making sure the right ppl are involved – the more ppl the longer it takes to just get shit done. and that is hard – very hard, but absolutely crucial. it’s the balance of how do i keep the project going, while keeping everyone happy. and keeping everyone, or at least most folks :) , happy is crucial if you actually want to succeed in the corporate world…

it’s almost like start.com had one set of customers: our users, live.com has two, the internal teams/stakeholders and our users :) so my rule of thumb is, if the teams/stakeholders can help us build a better prodcut for our customers then that’s great! if not, let’s not waste eachother’s time.

It reminded me an interview with Marissa Mayer of Google, in which she elaborated on how it works in her camp. I read the article half a year ago, but one or two search queries located it in Businessweek:

Part of the solution, she says, will come from avoiding the mistakes that have plagued other fast-growing companies. Among them: the tendency for increased overlap among employees and projects. “When companies get large, rather than doing more things, they often have more people doing the same things,” Mayer says.

To avoid this situation, Google is redoubling its commitment to very small teams. Usually, groups of three engineers will work on even some of the most important projects at the company. By keeping team sizes small — and teams often share the same office — Google aims to maintain its nimbleness. “When you’re in the same office, you don’t have to declare a meeting,” she says. “You can just turn around and work it out.”

You may say that even at Google the scale will sooner or later do its dirty work; in fact, the Businessweek article is devoted mostly to speculate if and when it will happen. Still, there is a difference between having a good philosophy and then failing to keep it, and being screwed from the start by the overhead of corporate dead wood.

Ps. And the only reason I wrote all of this instead of just leaving the comment below the original entry is that MSN spaces didn’t allow me to do it without logging to passport account.