Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Valve's amazing company structural model

I read in amazement about the games-maker Valve. It is a company without management, where employees work on what they want, sit where they want and decide each other's pay.

"We're a flat organisation, so I don't report to anybody and people don't report to me," employee DJ Powers told the BBC. "We're free to choose to work on whatever we think is interesting. "People ask you questions about what you are working on. And the response is not to get defensive but to have that conversation and make sure that we're all invested in each other."

Valve's games include the Half-Life, Portal, Dota and Left 4 Dead series. They are well-known for their quality and their high sales.

Its (lack of) structure might lead to individuals simply working on pet projects with no team-working at all. This could not lead to the games it produces, so how do its quality products some to fruition?

"One of the ways that things get done at Valve is that a critical mass does form," explained Mr Powers.

"There are lots of ideas about what is cool to work on. But unless you can find like-minded people to work with, you will struggle to get enough resources you need to get it done."

Powers rejects the theory that there's an elite of people working at Valve. He said: "It works because it was the original philosophy. Gabe [Newell] and the crew that started Valve hired people with this in mind. That's how we got to a company working effectively for a long period of time under this structure - because it was designed from the beginning."

The firm also has a ranking system in which staff working on the same project assess each others' technical skills, productivity, team-working skills and other abilities. This helps to form a ladder which determines who will get paid most. 

Yet in the land of equal, someone has to have the ultimate say.

As Valve's handbook says: "Of all the people at this company who aren't your boss, Gabe [Newell] is the MOST not your boss, if you get what we're saying."

See original BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24205497