Google Fiber is part of the Access division of Alphabet, Inc., parent company of Google and provides fiber-to-the-premises service to targeted locations across the U.S.
Google Fiber was a transformative business at a crossroads. When they engaged Evviva for help, ownership-mandated cuts had reduced staff by 50% and customer acquisition costs by even more. The remaining workforce was rattled. They were still on a mission, but faced uncertainty in every direction—from a new business plan to a new leadership team to a spinoff of the company (and the tradeoffs that entailed). Fiber needed help moving forward quickly in a context of high ambiguity, low trust and little tolerance for missteps.
Two things were clear to us from the outset. First, Google Fiber needed to reframe uncertainty as of opportunity. Second, the workforce needed to rediscover their inspiration to engage with the vision Fiber held for the future. This rediscovery needed to happen both at the personal level, and in their collaboration with their colleagues, to justify the hard work and sacrifices they would still need to make to attain it.
We knew that creating cultural acceptance for “constructive uncertainty” in a distributed organization like Google Fiber would require predictable rituals, trust, and transparency. In turn, this called for heightened communication at every level—and increased responsibility for information sharing up, down and across the organization. But when we began, the workforce was skeptical of management, so rituals, trust and transparency were in short supply. Honesty and authenticity were more important than ever in every step of the way.
We began by gathering information through leadership interviews and focus groups conducted on site at key company locations across the country. We supplemented these with additional groups and interviews online. We investigated how communication worked inside Google Fiber, where it broke down, and what the consequences were. We also conducted ethnographic work to identify cultural artifacts that were already in place.
Fortunately, this research uncovered a set of positive behaviors that drove successful collaboration at Google Fiber in some places. These were simple, powerful ideas like “keep promises, fail small, say yes,” and “move fast” that powered the most effective field operations.
We document, defined and co-opted these already-present behaviors. They became the foundation for an authentic behavior model to support efficient decision making–and to drive decisions as close to the customer as possible.
We held launch sessions in Google Fiber locations across the United States. During these two-hour sessions, in partnership with Google Fiber’s Chief HR Officer and CEO, we introduced the leadership principles we had developed, modeled leadership behaviors, and answered staff questions. More importantly, we carried a message of empowerment and accountability from the CEO to every member of the fiber family.
The authenticity of our model, the simplicity of the rollout, and the frankness of the approach struck exactly the right chord with the workforce. The process won over even the biggest skeptics, who participated willingly in our training and expressed enthusiasm for the results. The rollout collateral was overwhelmingly well-received —and this by a workforce that was used to being spoiled—thanks to their functionality, simplicity and elegant design.
The ice had been broken, and Google Fiber was poised for a new phase of growth.