At Google, Page Aims to Clear Red Tape


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At Google, Page Aims to Clear Red Tape


As Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page prepares to reclaim his role as chief executive on April 4, he has already taken steps to assume greater command of the Internet company.

Since Google said in January that longtime CEO Eric Schmidt was stepping aside, Mr. Page has made a series of moves to cut through the firm’s 24,000-person bureaucracy and figure out ways the company can act more like a start-up than an incumbent.

Associated PressCo-founder Larry Page, shown last July, takes over as CEO April 4.

Mr. Page has asked product and engineering managers to email him about their projects to potentially winnow them down, said people familiar with the matter. He has persuaded top executives to sit and work together every day in a public area of the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters so employees can directly approach them on matters, these people said.

The 38-year-old has also embarked on a tour in recent weeks to hear from managers about problems they face and has asked that employees develop new practices for meetings, such as designating a decision-maker and refraining from working on their laptops, these people said.

The moves give a sense of what Mr. Page—who hasn’t commented on his CEO strategy—will do to speed up what he has said has been sluggish decision-making at Google’s top levels. Mr. Page was Google’s founding CEO before handing the reins to Mr. Schmidt in 2001, when the company had around 200 employees, and his recent efforts show he wants to bring back elements of the company’s early days. Google declined to make Mr. Page available for comment.

Google continues to try and diversify away from its dependence on its search engine, which generated most of the company’s nearly $30 billion in revenue last year. At the same time, Google faces competition from Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. in the mobile content and online advertising markets, as well as increasing antitrust scrutiny by governments at home and abroad.

Under Mr. Page, Google is expected to focus on its graphical online-ad initiatives, video site YouTube and its Android mobile device software, people familiar with the matter said. He is also expected to devote resources to several emerging lines of business, including online business software division Google Apps, and to continue to make acquisitions of start-ups.

Google is also likely to continue long-term bets including driver-less car technology and an effort to scan all the world’s books and make them available on the search engine, both of which were pet projects for Mr. Page.

The book effort suffered a setback this week when a federal judge in New York rejected a deal between Google and publishers that would have blessed the scanning of out-of-print books whose copyright holders are unknown.

As Mr. Page has become more visible at Google, Mr. Schmidt, 55, who will become executive chairman, has been shopping around a book about technology and has been traveling more as part of his new role handling government affairs and partnerships, said a person familiar with the matter. Google’s other co-founder, Sergey Brin, 37, said earlier this year that he is working on special projects at the company.

Mr. Page’s presence has been felt at Google’s headquarters and through emails. About a month ago, he sent an email to product and engineering managers asking them to write to him about what they were working on in 60 words or less, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Page said in the email that he wanted managers to “pitch” him on their projects, these people said.

Some managers believe Mr. Page will eliminate or downgrade projects he doesn’t believe are worthwhile, freeing up employees to work on more important initiatives, these people said. One project expected to get less support is Google Health, which lets people store medical records and other health data on Google’s servers, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Page has also tried to facilitate better communication among top executives and give employees access to them. He recently mandated a “bullpen” session every afternoon, in which he and the company’s executive officers sit and work on small couches outside a board room in Building 43 at Google’s headquarters.

The attendees have included chief legal officer David Drummond, senior vice president of engineering Jeff Huber, senior vice president of product management Jonathan Rosenberg, and YouTube chief Salar Kamangar, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Page has also met with management of Google divisions such as YouTube and Google Apps. People familiar with the matter said Mr. Page asked managers what steps could be taken to move more quickly and improve performance, and to identify the barriers that prevent innovation.

Mr. Page said in January that he wanted to allow more projects to operate like start-ups inside of Google, similar to how YouTube and Android currently operate.

One new example is Slide, a company involved in social-networking-related applications that Google acquired for $179 million last year. Slide was supposed to be subsumed into a Google group working on social-networking-type initiatives, people familiar with the matter said.

But after the deal closed, the Slide management and the Google social team had diverging views; Slide was allowed to remain independent and work on its own services, these people said.

Write to Amir Efrati at

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