Why There Are No Bosses At Valve – Businessweek
Earlier this week, Valve Software—the company behind the Half-Life, Counter-Strike and Portal video game series—released its employee handbook to the public because, according to Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, somebody asked. “I’d mentioned the handbook on a podcast and one of the listeners contacted us and said ‘Hey, can I get a copy?’ So [designer] Greg Coomer sent him a copy and all of a sudden it got posted online,” he said. The handbook attracted a lot of attention because, in addition to offering company massage rooms and free food, Valve has a unique corporate structure rarely seen at such a large company. Valve has 300 employees but no managers or bosses at all. Newell talked to Bloomberg Businessweek about his company’s environment and how it works.
Why did you create a workplace with no managers?
I was at Microsoft for 13 years and one of the things I did was go out and talk to customers. I ended up being exposed to a bunch of different organizations that had very different process models. As a result, I ended up thinking about organizational choices more than I probably would otherwise. It became pretty obvious that different type of organizations were good at different kinds of things.
When we started Valve [in 1996], we thought about what the company needed to be good at. We realized that here, our job was to create things that hadn’t existed before. Managers are good at institutionalizing procedures, but in our line of work that’s not always good. Sometimes the skills in one generation of product are irrelevant to the skills in another generation. Our industry is in such technological, design and artistic flux that we need somebody who can recognize that. It’s pretty rare for someone to be in a lead role on two consecutive projects.
Why is that?
The terminology we use internally is “individual” and “group” contribution skills. A group contributor’s job is to help other people be more productive, and in doing that you sacrifice some of your own productivity. It’s a higher stress job and you get interrupted a lot more. People will do that for one project. They’ll say, “I really want to do this game!” and everyone will say “Ha ha ha, you’re stuck with it now.” At the end of the project they’re like, “Gee, that was really interesting but I want to go back and work individually on the next thing.” Some of the highest compensated people at the company are relatively pure individual contributors.
Strange Random Manager Quote:
“If the Earth could be made to rotate twice as fast, managers would get twice as much done. If the Earth could be made to rotate twenty times as fast, everyone else would get twice as much done since all the managers would fly off.” – Norman R. Augustine
- Valve Software, The Shangri-La Of Workplaces (businessweek.com)
- Valve’s Hilarious Employee Handbook Reveals Amusing Secrets [VIDEO] (mashable.com)
- ‘Definitely panic if there’s caviar’: A guide to working at Valve Software (joystiq.com)
- Wash. Company Thrives Without Bosses (abcnews.go.com)
- Valve employee handbook leaked, revealing firm secrets (ctv.ca)
- Leaked Valve handbook sheds light on how games get made without a ‘boss’ (digitaltrends.com)
- You’re Hired. Now Figure Things Out (With The Help Of This Whimsical Handbook) (fastcompany.com)
- Valve’s Handbook for New Employees is full of awesome (vg247.com)
- A Glimpse At A Workplace Of The Future: Valve (forbes.com)
- They’re Waiting For You Gordon, In The Hello Chamber (rockpapershotgun.com)
Posted on April 28, 2012, in Article and tagged Bloomberg Businessweek, Counter-Strike, Employee handbook, Gabe Newell, Half-Life, Microsoft, Valve, Valve Corporation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.