In a Good Morning Silicon Valley last week that a friend forwarded to me, there was an interesting excerpt from Playboy’s interview with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. He described Google’s project tracking system:
We also have systems that automate and track the management of all our projects. This allows an enormous amount of freedom. One time an engineer told me, “I’m not working on what you think I’m working on.” He explained that his work had evolved into something extremely relevant and important, but there was no place to track it in our system. I said, “Why don’t you enter it into the system?” “I can do that?” he said. I’m like, “Yeah, who else is going to do it?” We have a system that engineers can update to put themselves on another project. Someone else might say, “Whoa, wait a second. I don’t want people to be able to do that.” Well, it turns out you have two choices: You can try to control people, or you can try to have a system that represents reality. I find that knowing what’s really happening is more important than trying to control people.
You can see why my friend thought I’d like that quote in light of my rant about timesheets last week. He and I spent a few minutes chatting about whether Google can possibly be as non-evil as it sounds. Hard to say, really.