Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2010 (Revised August 2010)

Systems Infrastructure at Google (A)

by Linda A. Hill and Emily Stecker


This case describes how a senior vice president of engineering at Google, Bill Coughran, leads a high-performing engineering organization. The case focuses specifically on Coughran's encouraging two teams of engineers to develop competing solutions for application storage systems. It also shows how Coughran assembled an informal brain trust of managers and technical leaders that assist him in leading his 2,000-person organization. This case will be relevant for those interested in what it takes to lead for sustained innovation, particularly of knowledge workers like engineers. It also sheds light on how to develop leaders in engineering organizations.

Keywords: Independent Innovation and Invention; Innovation and Management; Innovation Leadership; Leadership Development; Product Design; Groups and Teams; Creativity; Motivation and Incentives; Competitive Strategy; Technology Industry; United States;


Hill, Linda A., and Emily Stecker. "Systems Infrastructure at Google (A)." Harvard Business School Case 410-110, March 2010. (Revised August 2010.)