Here’s some all-too-common management advice: make sure that whatever you are working on, your boss cares about it. Following that management tip may be what killed the hugely successful product Google Reader.
Much has been written about the death of Google Reader, but an article from Buzz feed provides a powerful theory:
There’s a very simple corporate reason for why Google Reader was shut down: No one internally deemed it important enough to even work on, much less save.
The decision had little to do with consumers — the RSS reader was very popular with a core set of power users — and much more to do with corporate politics. At Google, Chief Executive Larry Page and his inner circle of lieutenants, known as the “L Team,” simply did not view Google Reader as an important strategic priority. Internally, it became obvious that despite Google Reader’s loyal fan base, working on the project was not going to get the attention of Page.
Businesses have to make strategic decisions all the time about what to cut and what to keep. But if the story is true that Google Reader was killed because of internal politics–not external user needs–that hints at serious management problems at Google headquarters.
This brings us to another question..
How should companies decide what products to pursue and what products to keep?
The answer to this is not “do what will make the boss happy” but age-old management advice. “Define a vision statement, and follow it.”
For Google, that vision statement is well articulated. Dumping a product for the reasons suggested above seems like a complete reversal of those objectives.
But even if you don’t have a vision statement, you probably have an underlying philosophy. You probably rank employees, customers, and shareholders in some order in your mind. You probably have strong feelings about customer service, management styles, or product quality.
There are lots of ways to run an organization. But if you run it by ignoring millions of customers in favor of the one pseudo-customer in the office at the end of the hall, you’ll end up with that individual being the only person you serve.
It’s hard to imagine any business sustaining itself like that.