Hey, What the Hell Is Happening at Google? And Why Did It Take So Long?

Last Updated Jul 6, 2011 8:10 AM EDT

First came the introduction of its Google+ social network, which looks like it may have thrown a minor panic into rival Facebook. Now Google (GOOG) reportedly plans to rebrand its Blogger and Picasa services with the Google name around the time Google+ publicly launches, says Ben Parr at Mashable. That's also when the company will require all user profiles to be public in an attempt to make Google a natural way for people to manage their online identities.

That's a lot of change, not just in what the company is doing, but in how it's doing it. In fact, ever since Larry Page became CEO, there have been a lot of changes at Google and its lineup of products and services. Amazingly, Google finally shows signs of a coherent strategy. So why didn't this happen before?

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Page must have been itching for control for years, because he's clearly had a long wish list of what he wanted to happen at the company. Here's just a sampling since January:
The company is simplifying what it does and has tried to reflect that in its organizational structure. And that's been a long time coming.

So now you say something
Google has been unfocused and sprawling for years, putting its hands into any number of pots just because it could. That produced a major, and continuing, distraction. How else do you explain a company having two separate operating systems -- Android and Chrome OS? Or cranking out a confusing number of products that started as experiments and then leaving them to thrash about and live or die without much support? It was bad management, pure and simple.

The question is, whose bad management? People often credit chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt with being a great and effective leader. And yet, it almost seemed as though Google succeeded in spite of its many strategic missteps.

When the original venture backers of Google pressured Page to step down in his first stint as CEO, maybe they made a significant mistake. After all, Schmidt failed to transform Novell as its CEO -- his job just prior to joining Google.

Will things get better fast enough?
Perhaps it was the triumvirate making decisions at the top -- with Schmidt, Page, and Sergey Brin ruling together -- that often made Google slow and ineffective. And no matter how he tried to pass them off as jokes, Schmidt's frequent references to himself as "adult supervision" for the two younger men was insensitive in public and suggested an unhealthy tension among them.

And yet, Page's reputation for failing in the human aspect of leadership was still in strong form during his drive-by earnings call performance. Coherent branding and turning social networking into a framework for search, blogs, photos, and many other Google services is important. But success will rely on the right touch with people as well as technology. And if he can't master that, Page's actions in focusing the activity of the company will go only so far.

Related: Image: morgueFile user Alvimann, site standard license.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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