Is Google Squeezing Its "20% Time"?

Posted by: Jena McGregor on June 6, 2008

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Silicon Valley blog Valleywag had a post yesterday about “Google’s Ever-Shrinking 20% Time.” Google’s now infamous management practice, which allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects of their choosing, is supposedly getting the crack down, according to the widely read blog. Not for everyone, apparently—just those whose projects are behind schedule. “A sensible management move,” writes managing editor Owen Thomas, “but against the spirit of 20 percent time, which was meant to liberate creative employees from meddling middle management.” It also reports Googlers are having a harder time getting side projects approved.

If Valleywag is right, it fits perfectly with what usually happens in a downturn: Innovation gets squeezed. Management cuts risky projects, ramps up efforts at efficiency, and cuts down on dabble time. Thomas raises a good question: Where does Google’s management draw the line between making more time for delayed projects and meddling?

Reader Comments

Thomas H

June 6, 2008 12:53 PM

If you have an average workforce, then Google's 20% policy might not make sense. However, I'm assuming Google has brainiacs who can do great things on the side. Yes they're there to do day-to-day company work, but so is creating the next Adwords. Thomas

Wally Bock

June 6, 2008 6:32 PM

Google will have to decide if the 20 Percent Time is part of the culture where it's part of the message that "creativity is what we do" or that it's a perk for those who get their day job done fast.

JG Moore

June 7, 2008 10:01 AM

It's offical, were in a recession. We need change. GOBAMA 2008

scott h

June 9, 2008 4:27 PM

Larry and Sergei will not bow to Wall Street or middle management or investor pressure.

Kailie Quinn

June 11, 2008 2:05 PM

I don't think it's meddling, google has to protect its bottom line. If that mean sacrificing a little identity, it's better than sacrificing the company.

@JG Moore

Please take your rhetoric elsewhere.

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