Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of strategy implementation and universal understanding

"a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices"
- Collis and Rukstad, "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?", Harvard Business Review, April 2008

The concept of strategy implementation as universal understanding of the strategy within the organization struck a cord with me:

I installed GDrive on my Mac laptop today. It wasn't the first time. As the story goes, five years ago,...
"In 2008, GDrive was about to launch under Bradley Horowitz (now a lead on Google+), but Sundar Pichai (now the SVP of Chrome) convinced Google’s top executives not to launch it. The reason? He felt like the concept of a “file” was outdated in the cloud-based universe that Google was trying to build. After some debate, the powers that be at Google agreed and GDrive was shelved, and the team moved over to the Chrome team." (

Five years later, the product comes off ice. What is interesting to me about this story is that Google's strategy hasn't really changed in the intervening time, but the understanding of the strategy and how to implement it has evolved. It has evolved differently in different parts of the organization, and probably there is still disagreement about how the various pieces best fit together.
In the intervening time,
 - Google Spreadsheets and Writely got fused at the 'doclist' level
 - Google Docs gained an offline mode, based on Gears
 - Gears was killed
 - Google Docs gained a new offline mode, useable only in Chrome
 - an 'online document viewer' mode became more generalized, for displaying PDFs and Word documents unsuited for complete conversion
 - Google Docs Doclist gained the ability to hold arbitrary files, without direct connection to any of the Google Docs editors
 - App Engine had all the capabilities for 'GDrive'-functionality, except arbitrary restriction on data blobs
- Chromebooks launched, with no local apps, except for offline webapps
- Android took off in a major way
- A Google Docs Android app gave offline access to material in Google Docs
 - Dropbox has become a critical tool for my group workflows and collaboration

By the time GDrive finally officially launched, it is at some level just a slight increment over the Google Docs webapp (Doclist) and Android app as they already exist. But there is finally resignation that webapps are still and for the foreseeable future will still be far from able to take the place of desktop software. And trying to force people into the webapps paradigm when it just isn't ready yet just isn't going to work.

I wonder how people from that team feel, to see their cryogenically-suspended product resuscitated five years later...

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