Google’s Integration Misstep
Google announced last Thursday the closing of the Motorola Mobility Libertyville, Illinois campus and the creation of a 600,000 square foot tech center in the Merchandise Mart, 40 miles away in downtown Chicago. In announcing this move Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, talked about 2 centers of excellence: California for software and Chicago for hardware.
This is the first serious, but flawed, step of the integration of Motorola Mobility into Google. Much of the hardware (mechanical and electrical) engineering talent lives in or around Libertyville with their families, and now they will be forced to commute for at least two hours a day to the tech center downtown. This not only reduces productivity but also flexibility in project work schedules since individuals will be watching the clock to ensure they don't miss the train, as opposed to focused on delivery of critical new products. This significant disruption to peoples’ lives increases the probability that the great talents that Google has acquired will migrate elsewhere.
The concept of a downtown facility is nothing new; Motorola Mobility has had a design center in Chicago for the last five years so that it could tap into the design student community, while at the same time maintaining a design center in Libertyville. The creation of a tech center to attract young engineers sounds logical but seasoned engineers are also essential for great product development and to avoid making similar mistakes to those made by Apple: for example, putting a metal edge on the iPhone 4 which shorted the antenna and resulted in dropped calls. Young, single engineers are naturally attracted to the bright city lights but once they have families and look to settle down, many of them move to the suburbs to ensure good schooling for their children. That was a prime reason why Motorola in its suburban locations always had such a high retention rate amongst its engineers.Continued on the next page