Google’s bet on small Jason 18 Nov 2005

Forbes has a nice piece on how Google takes advantage of small teams in a big organization to actually get things done. For all those who say “this wouldn’t work for us because we’re too big,” just have a look at one of the world’s most successful companies.

Brin and Page have created a corporate organism that tackles most big projects in small, tightly focused teams, setting them up in an instant and breaking them down weeks later without remorse. “Their view is that there is much greater progress if you have many small teams going out at once,” Schmidt says.
Hundreds of projects go on at the same time. Most teams throw out new software in six weeks or less and look at how users respond hours later. With 82 million visitors and 2.3 billion searches in a month, Google can try a new user interface or some other wrinkle on just 0.1% of its users and get massive feedback, letting it decide a project’s fate in weeks.

And the money shot:

A typical task, from tweaking page designs to doing scientific research, involves six people. Last month Google was reported to be in a bid to derail Microsoft’s overtures to America Online by teaming up with Microsoft’s cable ally, Comcast, to invest in AOL; that this didn’t leak earlier may have been because only a few Googlers were in on it.

There’s one of the key benefits of small: magnified accountability. When you have a group of 50 it’s easier to dodge accountability and responsibility. But, when you can feed the team with one pizza it’s a lot tougher to hide (and that’s a good thing).