Gerry McGovern:

So I remember, years ago reading this article about one of the head developers in Gmail and he brought an early version to Larry Page to have a look at it and, and opens it up. And Larry Page immediately says, it’s too slow. And the guy says to him, what do you mean it’s too slow? And Page says, it’s taken 600 milliseconds to load. And your man said, how could you know it’s taken 600 milliseconds to load? He says it’s too slow, make it faster. So the guy goes back to his cubicle and gets his software timer out and it was taking 600 milliseconds to load…

So maybe that’s why Larry Page has been so successful. But then you jump forward a number of years and you see Gmail has become a monstrosity and people are constantly complaining that they’ve got really powerful computers and really big bandwidth and it’s taking ages to delete a document or to archive a document or to practically do anything with Gmail.

And you wonder, well, what has happened? Well, obviously I presume Larry Page is no longer focusing on Gmail and stuff like that. But I was asking people within Google that I’d meet over the years, what’s happening and why, why is that? And they said, well, the culture is changing and Google is becoming just like any other large organization and in any other large organization, the way you move forward in your career is by launching things. And it really doesn’t matter what those things are, once you launch new version. So if you become a new manager of Gmail, you’ll not progress by maintaining and making the current version faster and cleaning up stuff. You’ll only progress in your career if you launch a new version of Gmail. So you’ve got this rat’s race to the bottom of adding features and adding stuff purely to add stuff to people’s resumes.

And that’s the classic launch and leave culture and, you know, these are the metrics that even when you look at an organization like Google which you think is a pioneer in new design and simplicity and all that sort of stuff. And they’re just becoming like everybody else, a bloated, egotistical vain organization where people go around showing off the latest piece of crap basically, that they’ve created that’s actually practically useless but will move their career forward because that’s how people are rated within an organization like Google now. What have they actually created? What have they launched rather than whether, was it actually useful? Did it actually make people’s lives better or did it make people’s lives worse? You know, so it’s so deep that culture because it’s tribal, it’s ancient. The ancient culture of ownership and production and really trying to get to a continuous improvement world demands those new metrics.

I talked to a very senior manager who said, in a very large organization, who said they’ve been changing the metrics in their environment for their IT teams and many other teams that, you know, it used to be that we created this project and we launched it by this date and we did this update and we did this change and they were all measured based on was the update done, did it go through Q &A, were these steps followed. So it was all the measuring the actual production activities and she says now we measured them based on the customer experience that, is the website faster, are these things working better from a usage point of view. So we’re shifting the metrics from production oriented. They’re not getting rid of those metrics, but they’re much less dependent on them, to metrics of outcomes. And I think that’s the way you deal with this problem. You measure the outcome. Nobody seems to be measuring in Google the fact that Gmail would embarrass a snail.

Gerry Scullion:

But in saying that it’s still the preferred email client for most people. So I just don’t think there’s enough competition and that’s me being completely biased. And a disclaimer, my wife works for Google so I’m all in with Google, but I would never move to anyone else. So maybe there’s a bit of complacency has set in, you know, I’m not going to use Hotmail. I mean Gmail or Yahoo, it’s like they’re so far ahead. Even Apple’s mail system, I wouldn’t think of using.

Gerry Gaffney:

Gerry Mac, this is something you’ve been banging on about for years. And I don’t mean that in a negative way that that just sounded, but while you were talking there, it resonated with me because that was… I know one of your recent newsletters, which is this weekly newsletter you do, which is you know, frequently profound and you’re sending that when you measure and reward launches of new things, you get launches of new things and you’ve talked in the past too about, you know, people being rewarded for the number of pages of content that they’ve created. Whereas they should be getting rewarded for, you know, the amount of stuff they take down because that has a direct effect on improving the user experience. But you know, it’s very hard to do that, isn’t it? Particularly, I think if you’re an engineering type of organization because building stuff and making stuff and launching stuff is very easy to measure. It’s pretty graspable.

Gerry McGovern

Yeah. And there’s an old saying that that which is easy to measure gets measured. You know, that often we create a structure around the things that we can easily do and then we justify the metrics that come out of those in the process. But I think, you know, we’re moving into a different world where use is central in the process and you know, Gmail became great because it had a Larry Page obsession with speed. You know, in the early days there were obsessed with these things and they were totally focused on these things and, you know, is it complacency or is it just that all organizations become the same organization over time. A culture. And it wasn’t just… many, many Google employees told me this in a whole range of areas that now in Google it’s all about the project that you’ve launched, the thing that you’ve done, it doesn’t really matter,

Once you get your promotion before it bombs, so to speak, you know, you’re a great person. I think it’s harder absolutely to create those metrics of outcomes. But I think it’s critical to do them because they transform the way people think internally about what their job is. If my job is just to launch the latest update, you know I won’t care that much. But if my job is to ensure that the network that people are downloading the pages in a maximum of three seconds and if I can get it down to a second, I get a big bonus and a clap on the back, well I’m going to be talking about those issues with my dev team and with, with others. But if my job is to launch the update are to write code that’s when I’d be talking and thinking about… The bigger organizations I’m dealing with now are beginning to see those metrics beginning to flow through in their management cycles.

Gerry Gaffney:

Can you give us an example, Gerry, without giving any secrets away?

Gerry McGovern:

Well, one of the, one of them is the kind of talking about Gerry Gaff there, a very big organization that I’m dealing with, how they’re changing the metrics for their IT teams that it was all these project done, has it gone through this Q&A cycle. It was all about doing actual activities, within the technical environment. And now they’re linking them to actual experience elements of the customer. Is there, you know, less returns, is the forms filled out, better accuracy or the less error rates and filling out the forms. Are their pages downloading within a minimum of, you know, 1.2 seconds, you know, so they’re setting all of these metrics now around the experience of the customer. And and I see others beginning at least to try to get there, to look at the outcome rather than just the input. And I think that is that transformative set of metrics that really work better in a digital environment than in a physical environment.

Gerry Gaffney:

It may also counteract the sort of fetishism of change that we see around the place. I don’t know if you guys sort of come across this. I’ve worked with a few organizations where the whole thing of doing something every two weeks, which you know is great in some ways, but it can also become a fetish where, you know, the organization says, oh we’re reorganizing next week and you know, we know change is hard but change is good. Right. And as if change was inherently good instead of thinking well it’s not inherently good.

Gerry McGovern:

Exactly. Well, I bought the German dishwasher Miele or whatever the, and ours was well over 10 years old and when we got the same size, cause it’s kind of a fitted kitchen environment…

Gerry Scullion:

What was wrong with the old one, Gerry?

Gerry McGovern:

It basically wore out…

Gerry Scullion:

Trying to wash those shirts.

Gerry McGovern:

You know, after many, many years it just gave up. So we opened the door of it and God it looks identical and it’s the exact same structure, it’s the exact same. And I for a moment, I went, shit, I paid, you know…

Gerry Gaffney:

Big money for this!

Gerry McGovern:

Big money for this and getting the same piece of… You know, where’s the innovation? And then I thought, you know, okay, the other one was great and there are little innovations in it, you know, that the door, when it’s drying the door it opens a tiny bit. The first one that I come down and says, shit, it’s flooded! The door’s open. I didn’t leave it open last night, you know, and I noticed that it had this little thing that allowed the door open just to get air to dry stuff better and stuff, but basically 90% it looks identical. Now maybe the engine is better. I’m sure it probably is. And it’s a AAA rating so it’s much more economical, but it looks the same thing. And after the first five minute shock, I was saying, that’s great. You know, I was quite, okay, I trust them, you know, cause I trust them to do good stuff and…

Gerry Gaffney:

And to make genuine improvements when they’re changing something.

Gerry McGovern:

Exactly. And I think there’s a market for that as well. You know, that we make it genuinely fast and genuinely… But these require new metrics I think to do. And you know, in the digital realm that instead of these big launch and leaves, we’re continuously improving, but we’re improving speed and you know, stuff that really matters to people rather than the, the shiny stuff that seems to unfortunately get the promotions today.

Gerry Scullion:

Yeah, new logos, new brands, stuff that doesn’t really make a difference to the outcomes that people are looking for.

Gerry McGovern:

Somebody in Google said to me, you can fix 10,000 bugs, but you will never fix enough bugs to get a promotion in Google.

Gerry Scullion:

I’m sure they’re not alone.

Gerry McGovern:

Oh, they’re not. And they’re, there would be ahead of… You know, so you can fix all the bugs in the world. You can do all that stuff. Nobody will ever recognize you anyway and you will never be on a career path for progress. So, you know, something’s broken when that sort of world exists because you know, maintenance is the future, you know, from saving the planet, you know, the, the planet, we’ve killed the planet by constantly producing new crap, new pieces of plastic, new this, new that, our obsession. We got all of these cheaper manufacturing processes and we went wild. It’s like we went to this mad party where there was free cocaine and everything. Not that any of us take cocaine or anything like that…

Gerry Gaffney:

God forbid.

Gerry McGovern:

But free Guinness like all night long. And we just, you know, went mad producing stuff for 40 years and we’ve almost destroyed the planet in the process. And I think the next generation will be a generation of maintenance.