Google's TGIF

At any large enough company, people on projects far from yours make decisions that occasionally look like idiocy. Assuming they passed the same interview process that you did, there's a pretty good chance that the person who made that decision is reasonably smart. But human nature being what it is, we forget that, and sometimes assume the worst. Cries of "why would they do that?", "don't they realize that's dumb?", and "that's the worst idea ever!" abound. But due to the nature it's a big place, the decisionmaker can't possibly answer the criticisms individually, morale sucks all around, and employees on other teams are more likely to leave than to transfer to the team they now think is spending their efforts Doing Something Dumb. Google started an event called TGIF when it was a tiny company. The idea was that late Friday afternoon, everyone got together and talked shop. It it's current incarnation, someone picks a topic (Android, Chrome, Self Driving Cars, Benefits), and then the five or so most knowledgeable people on the topic have half an hour to explain what they've done since last time they took the stage. They're joined by one or two of the founders. And this is where it goes outside my experience in industry; the founders and experts spend another half hour taking live questions, from an engineer-voted list. About one question in four comes unscripted from a live microphone. No question - no matter how awkward - is taboo. The rules are really simple; speak your mind, but don't be rude. There's occasionally an answer that's not really satisfying... but that's the rare exception instead of a regular occurrence. The audience is engineers-only, which lets them talk freely about topics that would be management-only at other organizations. And employees who ask really hard public questions of managers (and the CEO!) aren't punished for it. The effect is stellar; instead of having the issue of decisions on the far end of the company occasionally looking like idiocy... everyone has the chance to get the *context* for those decisions; odd choices start looking like works of genius once everyone knows why they did what they did. Instead of the size of the company becoming something that divides people and slowly eats away at morale, engineers know what's going on, why it's going on, and a good bit of what's coming next. It keeps folks happier, which makes for harder workers and helps keep attrition notably low. It has some flaws, but overall? Aces on this cultural landmark.

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