March 13, 2011

Google's Project Oxygen: Eight Good Manager's Behaviors and Three Pitfalls

The New York Times reports on a project done at Google called Project Oxygen. The aim of the project was to find out what the best managers at Google do to have teams with individuals that perform better, are retained better, and are happier. The project team gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers — across more than 100 variables, from various performance reviews, feedback surveys and other reports. They then looked for some preliminary patterns in the data and formed hypotheses. Next, they gathered additional data by systematically interviewing managers to test these hypotheses. Finally, they analyzed these data and drew conclusions. The conclusions were summarized in 'Google's Rules' which consists of a set of eight good behaviors which are operationalized in behavioral terms and three pitfalls of managers.

These conclusions were communicated throughout the organization and incorporated into various training programs. According to the article the impact of these activities on improving managerial competence has been good.

Question: What do you think about this research?


  1. This fits well with the leadership and collaboration teaching I do for mid-level managers. As I say to the students, it's not about your project performance, it's about your people development performance.
    This is especially true in hard-skills business, e.g., engineering, tech., etc.
    Looks like the business schools are getting more demand for the soft-skills, i.e., people leadership.
    The trick is to pitch this approach as a benefit beyond happy staff. Instead, try business development, safety improvement, cost reduction...whatever the organization wants to achieve.

  2. I forgot to mention that I had already covered the topic of Google's organizational development skills at

  3. Hi Alan, thanks. I think Google's approach to management has been interesting for some years. For instance, Eric Schmidt once said: “We run the company by questions, not by answers.” (see This very interesting from a solution-focused perspective. Together with my colleague Gwenda, I have been giving solution-focused training to managers and teacher in which they learn how to lead by asking good questions.

  4. It should be added, that at Google highly qualified knowledge workers are working!Probably Foxcon (or any other production company) Rules would be different!

  5. Means: The manager of the future is a team-specialist, who provides an outstanding culture of communication.

    With the best communication, you get the best result of the team. With the best team, you get the best solutions and with the best solutions, you get the best customers.

  6. Thanks Heinz, I agree with you that effective communicaton is key to good team results, even in technical sectors.

  7. Funny, the boss at the office gave us a lecture regarding this issue just last week. I think communication is the number 1 factor for improvement. Couldn't agree more!

  8. There's NOTHING NEW here at all.

    It's sad that Google took several major failures (Buzz, Froogle) and a lot of time and energy doing data analysis to find what every entry level HR business partner already knows.

    Next step: actually making managers practice the 8 rules. Pass the popcorn.

    1. The entry level HR business partners may know it, but I rarely ever see it practiced.

  9. Nothing new here, and a lot of questions about it. Are those items in some kind of order? Knowing a little bit Google, I assume yes, but is it the right order? What I know from google is that they are looking for the best person with an high technical background, the best geek in the industry. They always look for hard skills, now with this inform, it seems like soft skill are the focus, is it true? I have to see it to believe it...
    I am happy that one company as google is coming to basic leadership concepts. I would like to see now that HR department has this list at hand when they find for a new candidate.


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