Analysis of Organisational Culture at Google
Analyzing an organization is no more than studying first its genesis its mottos and beliefs and the future it holds for the society that it resides in. For most companies, an organization is neither a science nor an art; it’s an oxymoron.
It is not a result from systematic, methodical planning but, shaped more by politics than by policies. However, perceiving an organization from a critical point of view would overshadow all the development and technology that many organizations have contributed to our society. In the words of Walt Disney co-founder of the Walt Disney Company states that “Whatever we accomplish is due to the combined effort. The organization must be with you or you don’t get it done… In my organization there is respect for every individual, and we all have a keen respect for the public”.
The author has chosen to talk about the Google culture from an Interpretivism perspective as she worked as an Ad Words Representative for the organisation.
2. Organizational Background
Google Inc an American public corporation earns its proceeds primarily from its advertising which is related to its Internet search, e-mail, online mapping, office productivity, social networking, and video sharing. Google is not a conventional company and with no intention to become one either. Throughout Google’s evolution as a privately held company they have always done it differently, where the emphasis is laid on the creativity and challenge of its people which has resulted in providing unbiased, accurate and free access information for its users.
The genesis of this organization begins with its co- founders Larry Page and Sergey Bin alumni of Stanford University where it was incorporated as a privately held organization on September 4, 1998 and then was moved to public ownership on August 19th 2004. The organization is globally spread across starting from the Head office in Mountain View California, with some of its subsidiaries being India, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Czech Republic, Poland, South Africa, etc. With approximately 20,000 employees working for this organization it has been voted by Fortune Magazine as ‘The Best Company’ to work for the second time in February 2008.
3.1 Data collection
The analysis of the organization is done with respect to the Indian subsidiary that is geographically located in the south of India- Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. The author worked as an As Words representative for the organization. The data collection for this analysis is based on a subjective and objective perspective, the subjective data being the author’s observations, perceptions and experiences, and the objective being that which is communicated and believed within the organization over the years. The author relates the analyses to the one year work experience, work relationships, work climate and culture, training and evaluation methods which was gained and undergone at the organization. The author also takes into count the strength of the workforce and the significant department in concern in which the author was a count for and worked for. The strength of the workforce noted to be an exact number of a 1000 employees for the year 2007- 2008 who worked for this subsidiary handling the Online Sales Operation for Asia Pacific, with Ad Words being the main revenue generating product other than that of Ad Sense.
3.2 Theories applied
The analysis of the organization has been done on the transformational factor, Organizational culture, with a correlation to that of the author’s paradigm on Burrell & Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Heinemann, 1979 . Geert Hofstede’s ‘Cultural dimensions theory’ has been used as the main model of analysis, however, to move beyond the national culture dimension and towards the organizations levels of culture Edgar Schein’s ‘Three levels of culture’ has also been applied.
Burrell & Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms gives an outlook of the author’s quadrant of perception on the company. Furthermore, the focus of study is from a radical humanistic point of view, the author falls under this paradigm believing that change begins with individual. The below given study also covers the founders view of organizational culture which is supported by the interview with Fortune Magazine.
Organizational Perception & Interpretation
4.1 Burrell & Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms
Understanding that the paper necessitates a more focused and specific analysis Burrell & Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Heinemann, 1979 paradigms has been applied as this synchronic model makes sense, which it places to time dimension on the study and understanding of organizations. It can be comprehended that a paradigm is a lens through which we perceive the world, each lens giving their own meaning and assumptions about the nature of the world and the way it is ought to be made sense of. There are many different lenses, which exist for viewing and understanding the world, and what follows will be a necessary simplification of a complex and constantly shifting set of boundaries that define the current paradigms (Penny cook, A. 2001). Explaining Burrell & Morgan’s Theory it is developed by a 2?2 matrix scheme to help classify and understand existing sociological theories based on four major paradigms. The matrix was structured based on the four main debates in sociology, which was then further consolidated into two fundamental issues that form the axis of the 2?2 matrix.
Functionalist Paradigm (objective regulation): Individuals in this paradigm rest upon the premise that society has a real concrete existence and a systematic character and is directed toward the production of order and regulation. The social science enterprise is believed to be objective and value-free. This paradigm possess a pragmatic orientation, it is concerned with understanding society in a way that produces useful, usable knowledge. (Craig & Paul, 1991)
Interpretive Paradigm (subjective regulation): From this perspective, social reality, although possessing order and regulation, never realizes an external concrete form. Instead it is the product of inter-subjective experience. The goal of this paradigm is of developing a purely ‘objective’ social science is a specious one. (Craig & Paul, 1991)
Radical Humanist Paradigm (subjective radical change). The perception in this paradigm shares its assumptions with that of the interpretive paradigm that everyday reality is socially constructed and maintained. Theorists in this paradigm are mainly concerned with releasing social constraints that limit human potential. They see the current dominant ideologies as separating people from their “true selves”. (Craig & Paul, 1991)
Radical Structuralist Paradigm (Objective Radical change): This paradigm believes that social reality is considered to be largely independent of the way it is socially constructed. It has an external existence of its own. The social world is featured by intrinsic tensions and contradictions; these forces serve to bring about radical change in the social system as a whole (Craig & Paul, 1991).
The paradigms correspond to theories of organizations, that which coexists symbolizing and expressing confirming and contradictory views about what and organization is and what it is ought to be and how could we go about acquiring such knowledge.
Figure 1 Sociological Paradigms
After having being administered the Sociological Paradigm questionnaire, the author’s paradigm was established as being on the Interpretivist Paradigm of the Quadrant.
Although, a radical humanist may share the assumption that everyday reality is socially constructed and maintained with that of the interpretive paradigm, this social construction is tied to’ pathology of consciousness’, a situation in which the author finds herself a prisoner of the social world that she creates (Craig & Paul, 1991). However, as well said by David Collins (1996), understanding the person’s paradigm from a questionnaire cannot give the person the right view of which paradigm we fall in as its just simple exercise and the reader understanding and mood at that point of brings a big impact on the way the reader answers the question. Therefore, though this evaluation may give the authors paradigm further scrutiny on various occasions would help confirm the evaluation.
4.2 Definition of Organizational Culture with Google culture
Louis, (1980) defines culture as an understanding or meanings shared by a group of people. Similarly Edgar Schein goes a little further and explains organizational culture as “apattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems” (Schein. H,1997) Although, the shared cognition or beliefs may seem the simplest understanding of organizational culture, it also interprets a team effort and the significance of sharing the same views and progressing that belief or perception but not regressing.
Google also maintains its organizational culture on the simple terms of futuristic and selfless thought which is to be shared and followed, as rightly put across by one of its founders Sergey Brin “I actually don’t think keeping the culture is a goal. I think improving the culture is”. (Adam. L, 2008) Furthermore, as described by Google’s Chief culture officer Stacy Savides Sullivan “I would characterize the culture as one that is team-oriented, very collaborative and encouraging people to think non-traditionally, different from where they ever worked before–working with integrity and for the good of the company and for the good of the world, which is tied to our overall mission of making information accessible to the world” (Elinor, M. 2007) Following the strategies of the global market Google understands that the organizational culture should be modified with accordance to the national culture making it one among the best in the industry. Which increasing globalization, performance and values of the employees aligned with the company’s strategy and manipulate culture to achieve the organizational objective according to (Ogbonna and Harris, 2002).
4.3 Evaluation of Google organizational culture on the Cultural Dimension Theory
Noting that the analysis is done on Google’s Indian subsidiary, there is no appropriate theory than that of the cultural dimension theory, judging that the theory was structured to observe the interactions between the national culture and the organizational culture. Geert Hofstede study demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behaviour of societies and organizations, and that are very persistent across time. Applying the skills of an ‘Interpretivist paradigm’ and comprehending and analyzing the organization an evaluation has been done on the five dimensions of the theory. The five dimensions being power distance, Individualism and collectivism, Masculinity and feminity and uncertainty avoidance Hofstede. G, (1997).
Figure 2. Cultural Dimensions of India
PDI– Power distance, IDV– Individualism, MAS– Masculinity, UAI– Uncertainty avoidance index, LTO– Long-term orientation.
4.3.1- Power Distance
On this dimension there is an insignificant distribution of power distance between the superiors and subordinates of the organization. The distance, which is even brought to notice, can be accounted for because of the employee’s job profiles or experience within the organization and not because of the kind of inequality brought among the employee relationship. Bringing to notice Hofstede’s dimensions for culture in India on the dimension of Power distance India ranks 77 as compared to the world on an average of 56.5 Hofstede.G, (1997), Google India Pvt. ltd seemed distant from this dimensional score. On reflection, the author recollects that even though the work experience in the organization was the first of her professional life, her start at the organization did not give her a distant feeling. The right of expression and freedom of thought and creativity was encouraged in the organization. Employees are supported, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working in what they think will most benefit the Organization. The organization believes that many of their significant advances have happened in this manner for example, Adsense and Orkut.
Additionally, the company falls under the flat organization structure, emphasizing on the importance of nooglers (new employees) taking up team responsibilities and thereby creating a sense of belonging. Furthermore, to remove the distribution of power distance the company believes in transparency of information from the CEO Eric Schmidt sharing information with that of a junior most employee such as that of an Ad Words Representative. Portals are constantly created for employees to voice their opinion and come up with solutions and ideas for existing and futuristic problems. Though, the organization being based nationally in that of India the organizational culture has not been influenced as yet by the national culture.
Hofstede.G, (1997) stated that management in an individualist society is management of individuals. Subordinates can usually be moved around individually; if incentives or bonuses are given, these should be linked to an individual’s performance. Understanding that Individualism is appreciated with a stress on collective effort or team work, recruiters are always on the search of such employees who can maintain their individualism as well as perform collectively as a team. The organization encourages and motivates collective and team work, for which the appraisal is given on an Individual performance.
Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals, not something over and above them. The organization is concerned about its employees well being and gives every opportunity to learn best practices through teams. Team meeting and inter team events are highly supported and are undertaken with a serious candor. In addition it promotes other employee clubs funding Googler network, Google Women Engineers and the Glbt- Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender googler. Google being an American based organization with an Indian investment there is no difference on this dimension.
Defining the value placed on traditionally male or female value systems this dimension evaluates as to whether the organization gives importance to competitiveness, assertiveness, ambition and accumulation of wealth characteristics of the masculine culture or emphasis on relationships, and quality of life which represents that of the feminine culture. As explained by Hofstede, G. (1997) masculinity and femininity when comparing the culture prevailing in one organization can be analyzed in he view of values in the organization. Morgan (1986:54) talks about modelling the behaviours implied in the values statement ‘The modelling of appropriate behaviour must occur at each level of the organization result in employees being modelled in these same behaviours.’ Looking at the Google culture it can be roughly said that the organization promotes a masculine value system in the organization because of the benefits it provides to its employees. Benefits such as, along with the basic salary a quarterly bonus and a company an annual bonus in the month of December, furthermore, transportation and food requirements which I provided with no charge and in abundance, health facilities as a gym and a spa along with a medical check up and medical coverage of Rs.5, 00,000 Indian currency on the employees and their immediate dependants. Additionally, day care centres for working parents and quarterly outings and entertainment (called movie nights) are held along with a total support to adventure, book and drama clubs, also, employees are given a discount in the most affluent stores and restaurants in the city. However, this may seem as a totally dominating masculine culture the founders of the Organization have not forgotten their corporate social responsibility and also believe in encouraging the feminine culture within the organization. The most significant commandment of the organization ‘Don’t be Evil’ this belief relies on the fact that company ought to do good for the world even if it has to forego some short term gains. Moreover, as users believe in their systems it is their duty to provide and unbiased and objective service. In addition to this it promotes the concept of team development and peer feedback to better the level of employee relationship within the organization. From a radical humanist paradigm though this may seem a balanced organizational culture it seems to be a strategy for the company to get hold of the employees from moving to different organization.
4.3.4 -Uncertainty Avoidance Index
This dimension reflects the level of anxiety of the organization that is the extent up to which the organization attempts to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty. Cultures that scored high in uncertainty avoidance prefer guidelines and structured circumstances, and the employee’s tenure in the company is longer. As expressed by Hofstede, G. (1997) “Laws and rules are ways in which a society tries to prevent uncertainties in the behaviour of people.” However, with regards to the organization there is awareness that business environment changes rapidly hence there is no hesitation to take high risk. The organization believes in funding projects that have 10% chance of earning a billion dollars over the long term as in the past pursuit of such projects have resulted in long term success. Although it cannot be quantified the specific level of risk that the organization is willing to undertake, as the ratio of reward to risk increases, the organization is ready to accept projects further outside the current businesses, if the initial investment is small relative to the level of investment in our current businesses. To evaluate this as a high or low level of uncertainty avoidance is difficult to tell as it seems but natural that most organizations would definitely keep this as an ideal margin. Furthermore, the organization prides itself on doing business with and selling its products on policies and guidelines. With respect to policies and rules outside the business scenario for the employees it can be said that the regulations are minimum that which is in the best interest of the employee example ID badges, and transportation checks for the security of the employees. As clearly seen from the above graph India among all cultural dimension uncertainty avoidance is the lowest where it is always people likes or has a habit of breaking rules with regards to the organization it can be said there are no rules to be broken in the first place. However, if minor offenses are committed employees are aware and are mindful of the fact that time is money and in time serious offenses can cost them their employment. As Brown(1998) states that rules and regulations of an organization bonds to have a good ethics in the work place and not which impose emotional stress on the behaviour of employees in the organization. Nonetheless, the rules and regulations in Google understand the freedom of the employees with knowledge of the importance of the national culture of the location of the organization.
4.3.5 -Long term orientation
This dimension describes the time horizon, the long term or short-term vision of the individual. Hofstede.G, (1997) explains this new dimension of long term orientation verses the short term orientation can be analyzed related to the job security and the long term vision of the employee in the organization with respect to growth in an organization. Google determines that employees within the organization are happy with their current job. They have an added advantage of requesting the manager to give a work experience in different projects. Employees are moved to different project where Google aims to use employee rather than firing them, this shows that Google cares about its employees. The organization believes that business decisions will be made with the long-term welfare of the company and with share holders in mind and not based on accounting considerations. Therefore it can be stated that Google has a long-term oriented culture with respect to seeing the future of its employees.
5. Evaluation of Google organizational culture on Edgar Schein’s Three levels of Culture
To understand the organization the best way to do it would be understanding the culture. Schein divides organizational culture into three levels:
This is being the most surface level of the organization example being the dress code in the company.
5.2 Espoused Values:
Just below the level of the artifacts this level consists of the conscious strategies, goals and philosophies
5.3 Basic Assumptions and Values:
the last lever is the core or essence of culture which is represented by the basic underlying assumptions and values, which are difficult to discern becausethey exist at a largely unconscious level.
Figure 3. Schein’s Three levels of Culture
Figure 4. Google’s Three levels of Organizational Culture
Although the above models have been applied to help analyze the organizational culture, like any other theory they have their shortcomings.
6.1 Cultural dimension theory:
Schwartz, (1992) argues that Hofstede’s survey based on one organization (IBM) in his view of culture in an organization; one cannot conclude that culture in all organization in that country practice the same. Furthermore, Brown (1998) criticizes Hofstede’s claims that he identified multiple national cultures or differences between such cultures, challenging his research approach. Brown also questions whether national culture dimensions uniform national actions and institutions agree with brown as a challenging environment in the present world organizations are challenging culture of work irrespective of the national culture. Finally, McSweeney, Brendan (January 2002) states Hofstede’s work has not just also been criticized because he seems to identify cultures with nations based on the supposition that within each nation there is a uniform national culture. Other types of cultures are acknowledged to exist but allowed little, if any influence.
6.2 Sociological Paradigm:
Though the sociological paradigm has been a well-accepted theory in Organizational management its acceptance within the social sciences have done so with little regard to the model’s internal consistency. Pinder and Bourgeoise (1982) state that Burrell and Morgan’s application of ontology has been misplaced. In addition, another fundamental issue is that whether the intra paradigm perspectives adhere to similar images of the subject matter. Hence, like most significant theories every shortcoming gives thought for future theories.
In conclusion the task has been challenging and educative for the author in comprehending the structure and culture of an organization though in many instances the observations could be in many aspects be influenced as an employee or my inadequacies of being a good observer to have noticed any kind of pro’s within the organization. However, my opinion on Google have changed understanding the difference of culture in an organization challenging the national culture in certain areas and understanding the cultural practice comparing other organization in different parts of the world. The author being in the quadrant of the Interpretivist Paradigm identifies with the organization being a merge of care and value systems.
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