Valve’s flat management structure
I know I have a very limited audience at this point (Hi mom!) but I think this needs to be shared and discussed as much as possible.
A couple days ago, Valve’s new employee handbook was released on the web. It explains how the company is structured in order to achieve its goals. In a nutshell, they want to create the best games and interactive entertainment and they decided that in order to do this, they needed to recruit the best, brightest and more collaborative individuals and that’s why they are trying to build their company as “the best place to work on Earth”.
One of the boldest decision is certainly to have a flat structure with no manager, where everybody makes his own decisions on what to work on and who to collaborate with. That extract pretty much sums it up.
Manager—The kind of people we don’t have any of. So if you see one, tell somebody, because it’s probably the ghost of whoever was in this building before us. Whatever you do, don’t let him give you a presentation on paradigms in spectral proactivity.
The flat structure focuses everyone on developing content for the customers and honing skills, instead of creating a corporate ladder that might encourage people to climb it. On that aspect, the document develops on the concept of the cabal, an organic, flexible, multi-disciplinary group organized around the delivery of something of value.
You will find it all in this handbook, encouragement to share ideas within a global ownership structure, a pledge against overtime, reassurance that failing won’t get you into trouble and is actually part of the company’s growth, a peer-driven review system …
They seem to be doing everything right, everything that you read about on those Forbes articles about flexible management, talent motivation and retention, flexible hours and so on. One can wonder about the reasons behind that leak, propaganda, PR stunt, world domination, and be doubtful about the actual reality of those methods in the company, but we have to at least respect the critical acclaim of their products, the fact that Valve rose up from a simple game developer to a premier PC online developer/publisher/distributor, as well as their profitability … They must be doing something right …
Now it all seems like a dream company to work at, and maybe it is – although I tend to be wary of anyone trying to sell me paradise on Earth – but I think the value of this is to see past the idealized vision that this pamphlet provides, understand the high level goals that are stated in it, and to pick and choose ideas that could work in your own environment, if your organization goals are compatible that is.
Now enough with my ramblings, let me invite you to check the document out.