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Google is risk averse & has paralyzing bureaucracy, executives say

Credit: Google

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is facing internal criticism from company executives who believe the Mountain View giant is seeing "cracks" in its success, according to a new report.

A group of Google executives are becoming increasingly concerned about the company's leadership, as well as the size of the firm, according to a report in The New York Times. Since 2020, at least 36 Google vice presidents have left the company. Some of them are vocal about why.

"If I had to summarize it, I would say that the signal to noise ratio is what wore me down," wrote Noam Bardin, a Google executive who departed in February. "The innovation challenges ... will only get worse as the risk tolerance will go down."

Several other Google executives told The New York Times that the company is suffering from a number of issues related to its size and maturity, including a "paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception."

For example, several of the anonymous executives said that Google made decision slowly because Pichai delayed action while chewing over decisions.

However, there doesn't appear to be a consensus among Google executives. Several told The New York Times that they were happy with Pichai's leadership.

"Would I be happier if he made decisions faster? Yes," said Caesar Sengupta, a former Google VP who left in March. "But am I happy that he gets nearly all of his decisions right? Yes."

In 2018, a number of top Google executives penned an email warning that the company was in the midst of significant growing pains. Although it did not explicitly call Pichai out, it did suggest that Google needed more decisive leadership.

Some examples of the company's risk aversion includes what insiders describe as a perpetual state of research and development. Google product teams will prepare products to hide away until a rival debuts something new and Google needs to respond. Internally, this is known as "pantry mode."

Other employees criticized Google's "lack of courage" with diversity. For example, after Google executive Timnit Gebru was allegedly fired for criticizing Google's approach to minority hiring, the company was slow to issue an apology after a backlash to her dismissal.

A few Google executives offered a defense of the company's slow-moving decision-making. It took about a year before Google decided to acquire Fitbit, for example. That's because Pichai had identified issues with the deal that other executives, including Google VP Sameer Samat, didn't see.

"I could see how those multiple discussions could make somebody feel like we're slow to make decisions," said Samat. "The reality is that these are very large decisions."

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