Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Knowledge Workers

Google: Ten Golden Rules lists ten ways companies can "get the most out of knowledge workers." Now, I'm not up on the technical definition of a "knowledge worker," but taken at face-value, it sure sounds like a description of teachers. So how do school systems measure up?

Here are some highlights:

Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone's opinion counts, making the hiring process more fair and pushing standards higher. Yes, it takes longer, but we think it's worth it.


Cater to their every need. As Drucker says, the goal is to "strip away everything that gets in their way." We provide a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses—just about anything a hardworking engineer might want.


Encourage creativity. Google engineers can spend up to 20 percent of their time on a project of their choice. There is, of course, an approval process and some oversight, but basically we want to allow creative people to be creative. One of our not-so-secret weapons is our ideas mailing list: a companywide suggestion box where people can post ideas ranging from parking procedures to the next killer app.


Strive to reach consensus. ... We adhere to the view that the "many are smarter than the few," and solicit a broad base of views before reaching any decision. At Google, the role of the manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator of decisions. Building a consensus sometimes takes longer, but always produces a more committed team and better decisions.


Communicate effectively. Every Friday we have an all-hands assembly with announcements, introductions and questions and answers. (Oh, yes, and some food and drink.) This allows management to stay in touch with what our knowledge workers are thinking and vice versa. Google has remarkably broad dissemination of information within the organization and remarkably few serious leaks. Contrary to what some might think, we believe it is the first fact that causes the second: a trusted work force is a loyal work force.


Massage rooms? First-class dining facilities? Geez, maybe this is why there's a shortage of science and math teachers...

No, seriously, if you value your employees and their ideas, show them! I like the idea of increased transparency, trust, and the encouragement of creativity. In my school, we strive for consensus, and over and over again, we find that many minds are better than one (but a good leader still has to know when to just make a decision). The last few months have made abundantly clear that no consensus exists among the teachers of NYC, let alone among everyone in the city involved in education. What are we doing to move towards consensus so that we can do better by our students?


Blogger posthipchick said...

Google also provides daycare for their employees, and a generous maternity package.

However, I have heard that most of these benefits are aimed at engineers and managers, and that support staff don't get treated as well.

That's not cool.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Lady Strathconn said...

That is so awesome. As I was watching "Desperate Housewives" this week, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a day care at my school. I don't have babies yet, but I would love to be able to have lunch with them everyday.

Wouldn't it be nice if schools would at least do something to keep teachers?

9:48 PM  
Blogger EdWonk said...

I'm envious of your schools consensus approach to decision-making. Our California district has a very old-fashioned authoritarian management style that smothers teacher initiative.

1:33 AM  
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4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want a work environment modeled on Google, you must work for a company managed by the same guiding principles, not a government-controlled monopoly.

2:34 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

It's remarkable that the DOE sees no value whatsoever in treating its teachers with respect.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is there internal support for a government monopoly when the employees of the monopoly are as victimized by it as many of its 1.1 million captive students?

Does anyone inside the school system see the benefits for students and teachers of having a large number of schools outside the control of the monopoly?

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monopoly? So, what's with all the private and parochial schools around? They must not be real schools if they don't count as competitors.

Anyone can make one good school. It's making hundreds that's hard. Proof of existence is not proof of replicability.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A monopoly exists when one organization controls the market for a particular good or service.

In other words -- no competition is permitted.

The control of a market is made evident by the nature of pricing for the service or good.

In the case of public schools versus private schools, the public schools are supported by taxes collected from all property owners. Even if they do not have children in public school. Meanwhile, the private schools are supported by the indivual tuition payments of parents.

If parents had the option of spending the $9,500 allocated for every school kid in NYC at the school of their choice, the public school system would no longer have a monopoly.

But the only place parents can spend the $9,500 allocated for every school kid in NYC is in a NYC public school.

This is a lot like Cuban money. It's not convertible into any other currency. Thus, the only place you can spend it is in Cuba.

If parents choose to send their kids to private school they must possess the wealth to pay property taxes AND tuition. This barrier holds masses of children hostage in a system that is seriously deficient.

5:29 PM  

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