Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.
Understanding the Google organizational structure
The traditional hierarchical corporate structure has employees at the bottom, supervisors and middle managers above them, and upper management above all. In this top-down approach to management, directives are sent from senior decision-makers down to employees.
Google’s organizational structure has characteristics of a matrix structure, borrowing elements from both functional and product/project-based organizational structures. Google also has aspects of a flat structure with a decreased prevalence of middle management.
Following are three characteristics of the Google structure:
- Function-based definition – Google has functional groups pertaining to sales, marketing, engineering, legal, products, and finance. Each group is led by an executive responsible for organization-wide strategy direction and decision-making.
- Product-based definition – the company also has groups responsible for artificial intelligence and cloud operations, among others. These product groups enable innovative product development and competitive advantage. They also fulfill Google’s mission statement and corporate vision.
- Flatness – Google takes more of a team-based approach to management. Employees take an active role in decision-making, which fosters a belief that their input has a direct impact on company success. Google places more of an emphasis on intelligence and less on seniority, allowing employees to communicate directly with upper management. This promotes the innovative exchange of information between employees with different skills or expertise.
Unique aspects of Google organizational structure
Google’s matrix structure is well studied, but there is nothing particularly special about the approach the company takes to management.
Having said that, it does utilize some leadership positions with unique titles. These include positions such as Chief Culture Officer and Chief Internet Evangelist.
Flatness and employee autonomy
The company is also renowned for its degree of flatness. Indeed, the company has created a culture where employees are given substantial freedom to develop new ideas.
To provide some semblance of structure to a workday, Google stipulates that employees must follow the 70/20/10 rule. In other words, 70% of the workday should be devoted to projects assigned by management. A further 20% can be spent on new projects or ideas related to management-assigned projects. The last 10% can be utilized to explore any idea regardless of topic or relatedness.
In 2015, Google somewhat abruptly renamed itself Alphabet and made Google as most know it a subsidiary.
This allowed the company to become a true technology conglomerate, expanding into domains beyond its traditional staples of internet search and advertising.
- Google has a cross-functional – or team-based – organizational structure. This is also known as a matrix structure.
- The three primary characteristics of Google’s organizational structure include function-based definition, product or project-based definition, and flatness.
- Google’s organizational structure has been well studied and even celebrated, but there is nothing particularly unique about it. Having said that, the company has created an excellent culture by funding culture-based positions and incorporating a high degree of flatness in employee management.
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