Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (previous President respective vice President for Google) present their take on the business of running a business. In “How Google Works” they share their ideas on leadership, culture, communication and more in a humorous way. Among other things, they’ve got a few simple but compelling thoughts on how to create and maintain a corporate culture. Most cultures are recklessly left to be created by themselves. Schmidt & Rosenberg do not think that’s a good idea. Instead, they believe that you ought to be conscious about what you wish to achieve. In striving to create your culture, these masters of leadership share these 8 and more hands-on tips (How Google Works):

1. Define your culture

First, know what you believe. Then, truly have faith in your philosophy or your vision (or what you wish to call this statement, this thing that you believe in). Show that you have confidence in it by sharing and communicating it often. When putting down in words what you believe is important, ask yourself:

  • What do you care about?
  • What you want the organization to be, to represent?
  • How do you want people to make decisions?
  • How do you want the organization to act?

Write the vision down yourself. Why? It must be authentic. If you let someone else write it for you, like a PR agency, it won’t be.

The authors, quoting former GE CEO Jack Welch, say “No vision is even worth the paper it’s been written on if it’s not communicated constantly and supported by rewards.”

2. Values

As with a vision, values have got to be real. The only reason putting values into place is to help and guide your employees; in making decisions etc. If the values are not authentic, they simply won’t do the trick. And if you don’t believe in them, they are pointless.

3. Keep your coworkers close to one another

These experienced Googlers believe that you ought to keep people close together. If you make sure that your offices are relatively crowded, ideas will flow, energy will be hectic, environment dynamic and creative, communication strong and effective. Of course, you’ve got to make sure there are a few secluded spaces where people can make calls or other things they need to do undisturbed.

4. Make it easy for people to do their job

Keeping people close together is one thing that makes people work efficiently. Giving people the right tools they need to perform their job well is another. Make sure that your people have what they need; computers, crayons, screens, flip charts – whatever it might be. Skip the expensive furniture. Don’t spend money on underlining power, isolating managers in large offices. Instead, be generous with resources and spend money on purposeful stuff.

The easier and nicer it is to work in your office, the more time your co-workers will spend there. The more fun they have, the better they’ll work.

5. Mix teams, mix people

Keep people functionally integrated so that they can learn from each other. Have designers work with project managers, project managers with engineers and so on. Product managers need to “work, eat and live with engineers” to be able to develop products. Rest assured that mixed teams generate new ideas.

6. Welcome messiness

Crammed offices may often come with a certain messiness. Don’t worry. A certain amount of chaos is usually a result of self-expression and ingenuity. Be happy about this. Don’t crush it.*

7. Create a meritocracy

Let those who have passion, motivation, skill and talent rule. Let the quality of an idea matter, not s/he who came up with it. The authors say that this may be challenging to some; and requires self-confidence. You may have to accept that people with less power and influence get to have their say.
Google has gone a step further. They promote a culture in which it is compulsory to have a different opinion. If you believe that an idea is bad, it is your responsibility to say so: “People getting to express what they think, creates great discussions and a better environment. People feel valued.”

8. Be careful when creating organizational structures

The authors underline these principles used by Google:

  • Keep the organization flat. Doers need quick access to decision-makers. A flat organization makes it easier to get things done.
  • Keep a maximum of seven direct reports. Make sure no manager has more than seven reporting to him/her.
  • Keep the organization functional. Don’t build your organization around business units or product lines. Have “one P&L”*, not several. The authors think the risk of separate units competing and not considering the company’s overall best is too high. If a company is to have a single, coherent strategy, the authors claim it must be driven by a single P&L.
    Let different department heads report directly to the CEO. Avoid secret documents.
  • Make organizational changes rapidly. Accept chaos for a while. Make change happen fast. Involve the implementers in the change process. The authors: “There is no perfect organizational structure. Just accept that. Build as you go.”
  • Keep teams small. Smaller teams are more efficient. They spend less time than big ones on time-consuming politics. But, the authors say, large companies with growing products need large teams, too.
  • Rally around influencers. Organize yourselves around the coworkers with the greatest influence; people with passion that perform well. “Invest in people who will do what they believe is the right thing, no matter if you let them or not.” And give people a lot of responsibility.
  • Create a yes-culture. If you say “yes” to people’s ideas, you will not only keep them motivated but you will also get things done. The authors quote Michael Hogan, University of Connecticut; “My first advice. Say yes. As often as you can. Saying yes creates processes. Saying yes make things grow, leads to new experiences that lead to knowledge and insights. A culture of yes’s is what can help you move forward in these insecure times.”
  • Avoid processes. Some are needed. Make sure the reasons for creating them are based on very good business reasons.

* One P’n’L, one Profit and Loss Statement for one profit center, means measuring the whole company based only on one Profit and Loss statement. This way of measuring is pursued by Apple, Google and others. Considered fairly “extreme” by many. The alternative is to measure units, profit centers with their own P’n’L’s separately.

Rule of thumb: One strategy, one P’n’L.