Rita McGrath walks history lane with Google's project failures

Failing Toward Success at Google - Rita McGrath - Harvard Business Review

Rita McGrath:

I'm often asked by companies how many experiments are needed to find a good "hit rate" of successes. If Google is any indication, the ratio is pretty high. That being said, what company would not be pleased to have maintained dominance in search, toppled the Blackberry in market share for smart phones at neck-breaking speed, hosted millions of e-mail users with gmail, and helped millions of us find our way with Google maps?

If you only use Google for search, you may have missed the products that McGrath reviews in her post this morning. But don't let that stop you from reading it. What she's done, using Google as a clear exemplar and backdrop, is give us all a stark reminder of the work it takes to actually find a path in our strategic plans and operations.

What Google has been exceptional at over the years is knowing both when to launch, and when to call it quits on a project by project basis. And each, if you look closely, ends up being cumbersome in delivering on their core strategic objective: drive advertising online.

Even the ad-oriented products like Google Print and Google Catalogs didn't make it. Apparently, someone at Google discovered that the bloom might have fallen from the rose of the print ad business. That's how it happens, more often than not: it's not necessarily Google's fault that Google Print didn't fly; the market evolved, transformed around them, and suddenly the product had no place.

So, today's message, if we can let Google's experience serve as a model for all of us, is to ensure we're maintaining a vigilant watch over our portfolio of projects and, like Google, make the choice for change when projects fall out of alignment with the strategic plan.