It seems the “tenants-in-common” approach to leadership at Google between co-founders Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin will soon be a thing of the past. Previously, all three co-founders shared decision-making responsibility equally.  Yesterday, however, alongside releasing their financial results for Q4 2010 and the past fiscal year, Google made a surprising announcement regarding their executive management, citing the need to streamline their structure.  Effective April 4th, 2011, Schmidt will step down as CEO and will assume the role of Executive Chairman, turning his attention outward towards external deals and partnerships.  Replacing him will be Page, who will manage day-to-day operations and focus primarily on product development and technology strategy, which are, according to Schmidt, “his greatest strengths.”  Brin will retain the title of Co-Founder, and will continue flexing his creative muscle working on innovation and strategy for new products.
With this increased level of job-description specificity, the Google triumvirate may be able to better “get out of their own way” when making important decisions.  According to Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do? and media and news blog BuzzMachine.com), under the old system, no decisions were made unless all three co-founders were in agreement.  While this may have been functional at times, Jarvis believes it has resulted in some clumsy outcomes, citing the conflicting Android and Chrome operating systems as one such example.  But with clearer leadership comes clearer strategy and decision-making, and Google hopes that this increased clarity will result in more focused execution as it continues to compete with Facebook in the digital space. Time will tell whether the reign of Page will spark the innovation needed to outshine Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth. Either way, it seems likely that a more efficient approach to management is a strong step in the right direction.
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Blog post author: Eric Gerson