Since Google co-founder Larry Page took the reins as CEO from Eric Schmidt on Jan. 20, there's been no shortage of speculation as to why the changes were made now, what this means for Schmidt's own future and what the changes portend for the world's leading search company.
One thing that is clear is that Page steps into the role at a time when Google is being pressed by shareholders to return to its innovative roots and suppress growing competition from companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon.
Page says that he wants to refashion Google with the speed and dexterity of a start-up while streamlining decision-making in a company with more than 29,000 employees. In fairness, Google is hauling in close to $30 billion a year in revenues, compared to an estimated $2 billion annually for Facebook. Meanwhile, as Ken Auletta notes in his recent blog for The New Yorker, YouTube has 40 percent of the market for Web videos and is now turning a profit while its Android operating system powers more smart phones that Apple's iPhone.
These are all accomplishments that Schmidt can look back upon affectionately. Schmidt, former CTO of Sun and CEO of Novell, brought the type of business and management experience that Google sought when he came aboard in 2001.
Some parallels can be drawn between the type of leader Google sought in Schmidt when he was brought on as CEO and other types of CEOs and CIOs who are recruited by companies for specific purposes. Google sought a seasoned executive who could bring some financial discipline and order to a company that, at the time, was bursting at the seams. Other CXOs are frequently recruited for temporary assignments, sought specifically for certain types of skills, such as leading an organization through a period of growth or to provide a stabilizing influence following a crisis. In recent years, many CIOs have been brought on by companies as hired guns to serve in similar types of roles.
It'll be interesting to see how Google performs under Page's leadership and what decisions he applies based, in part, on lessons he's learned from Schmidt. Has Google become too big to innovate? I don't think you can make these types of generalizations. It all depends on a company's culture. It hasn't stopped other big, long-established companies that continue to drive innovation, such as Procter & Gamble and 3M.