How Google Works — and you Can, Too

How Google Works proposes to explain the systems and methods that make Google so successful — but of course we all know that the secret sauce is to make lots of money (which the authors gleefully acknowledge)! And that’s what the search engine does. Still, we have all seen work places spoiled by riches, where mediocre players were allowed to stay and hire more mediocre players, so Google must be doing something right. Here are a few ideas that caught my attention in the book:

  • Encourage employees to work on what we used to call skunkworks projects — but don’t reward them directly for successes that come out of such projects. Glory accrues when the next assignments are meted out but there is no direct reward to suggestions or improvements. It’s a good way to reinforce self-motivation.
  • Write a user manual for yourself. I loved that idea, which is to share, as candidly as possible, the best way for others to work with you, whether it is to be forceful, or use data, or come to office hours.
  • Post everyone’s objectives (Google calls them OKRs, Objectives and Key Results) publicly. This makes it very easy to see what may motivate them.
  • To resolve tough differences of opinion, hold a daily meeting (and set a deadline) until the issue gets resolved. The sheer drudgery of repeating the same arguments will motivate participants to move towards an agreement.
  • Ask for an opinion post-interview. Google is famously obsessed by hiring, and famous for, historically at least, holding scores of interviews. Data has now told them that interviews beyond #4 don’t help make a decision (yeah!) so they now ask interviewers to give a 1-4 rating on each candidate, and compare with past scores to fight bias.
  • To find the strong people in an organization, find one and ask him or her to name others. I thought that was an excellent suggestion when taking over a new team.

What are your favorite people management techniques?

Cooks make better food when they can see their customers

At least, that’s what a team of American/British researchers found, as reported in the November 2014 Harvard Business Review.

What does this mean for us in support?

What the researchers found was that customers’ satisfaction with their food increased 10% when the cooks could see the customers (but the customers could not see the cooks) and 17% when both parties could see each other. Interestingly, customer satisfaction did not increase when customers could see the cooks but the cooks could not see them. And it seems that the food really got better, with cooks making the food “just in time” as opposed to stocking up (and risking overcooking). The cooks who could see the customers told the researchers that they felt rewarded when customers appreciated the food. And customers appreciated the effort that went into the food when they could watch the cooks.

  • We don’t cook (for our customers, that is) but we can use video calls.
  • Consider asking customers to upload their pictures and store them in the CRM system. (And perhaps vice-versa: I once sent a holiday card to all the technical support contacts of an enterprise software company with a picture of the entire support and services team (with no names). We got loads of compliments on it and many a support call in the following months started with, “where are you in the picture?”)
  • Anything we can do to personalize interactions is useful.
  • Share customer compliments and appreciation notes. Being appreciated is the ultimate reward.

Customers who show appreciation most likely get better service!

Are you surprised by this study?

Mark your calendar for May 5th

Yes, it’s Cinco de Mayo but, more importantly, on that day Barry Duplantis and I will be speaking about a wonderful scoring system that Hortonworks created and is testing to better forecast churn and revenue expansion. It’s very inspiring, if I dare say so myself.

The official title of the presentation is Predicting Renewals – Automatically! — Building predictive analytics to anticipate and prevent churn and it is scheduled for 2-3:15pm. Join us!

You can register here (enter FT Works as the referring partner).

How to lie with charts…

… is the excellent title of an article in the December 2014 edition of the Harvard Business Review. Two examples that apply to support metrics:

Truncating the Y (vertical) axis. By only showing a slice of the data universe (usually by truncating the low values), it’s easy to convince eyes and brains that declines or increases are way more dramatic than they really are. Start axes at 0! Check out this example:



Using cumulative growth rates. They fool the mind into thinking that growth is continuous and smooth — and hide stagnation. Instead, show period-over-period changes. Compare the two graphs below:



Time to re-read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It’s a classic!