The demise of Google+ again highlights rampant mismanagement at Mountain View
The announcement that Google is shutting down Google+, the company’s bid to enter the social networks, after a security problem that nobody seemingly noticed and that it did not report for fear of possible repercussions, illustrates once again Google’s lousy management practices. This is a company valued at more than $790 billion, making it one of the most valuable in the world, yet it is poorly managed and loses vast amounts of income. Aggrandizing its apparently good results makes no sense when they could be infinitely better. In short, Google is in denial about its management problems.
If you don’t use Google + you might be forgiven for thinking that its security problems and its demise don’t affect you, but bear in mind all those abandoned accounts in poorly managed sites or that are shut down that often contain a lot of our personal information. A number of regulators are looking into the problem, which could mean Google ends up paying a well-deserved hefty fine. Welcome to the world of mismanagement, where initiatives and products are left to rot because no one wants or gets tasked to deal with them.
Google+ has been an unmitigated disaster: a textbook case study of mismanagement. There was nothing wrong with the concept: Google tried to improve on many of the things that Facebook did wrong and succeeded thanks to brilliant designs; it had countless opportunities to capitalize on the failures of its main competitor… but instead did nothing. Google tried to support the product with questionable practices and in open violation of antitrust laws, but failed, simply because the whole thing was ill-thought out from the start.
After the departure of Vic Gundotra, who designed the service, Google abandoned the service to its fate, as it has done with other products, leaving them in limboland until the maintenance costs mount up and somebody decides to put them out of their misery. Google now has an unenviable reputation of breaking even with products with huge potential, but is incapable of assigning a management team and setting objectives, preferring instead to let them die a long, slow death, simply because it is unable to carry out one of the most basic management tasks: setting priorities. If there were anybody at Google with a modicum of common sense, he or she would manacle the company’s engineers to their tables to prevent them from leaving, while carrying out a thorough cull of most its managers, to be replaced with others blessed with the right know-how.
I still find it hard to believe that one of the most important companies in the world is so poorly managed: having some of the best engineers in the world means nothing if a company overlooks the importance of management. The result is missed opportunities and incalculable lost revenue: it’s almost as though Google went out of its way to hire poor managers. By now, Google should be the most valuable company in the world. The reason it isn’t is nothing to do with the competition or over-generous evaluations: it’s because it’s badly run.
What has happened to Google+, as happened with Google Reader and many other products, is just another illustration of what happens when a company loses talent, lacks foresight, is patently naïve and hopelessly inefficient. If Google is guilty of anything, it is a failure to manage its immense talent and potential.
Google+ could have given Facebook a run for its money: if it didn’t, it wasn’t because of product design problems or because Facebook was smarter: it was because of the obvious inability of its managers. Google+ could have been a contender if it had been run by minimally competent managers, Google+ could have changed the social network landscape: instead, today yet another sad chapter is closed, nullifying huge effort and many hours of hard work, and lays to rest yet another failed project in Google’s vast graveyard.