The subject of this Stoos showcase is Valve, a gaming and entertainment company with almost 400 employees, 0 managers and which according to Gabe Newell, the owner, is “tremendously profitable.”
My point with the Stoos showcase is to showcase companies that have gotten it. And Valve really deserves to be the first one to be covered. They really live up to the values of Stoos way before the people in Stoos gathered. They are a learning network of individuals creating value where everyone is responsible for stewardship of the living rather than the management of the machine.
Valve is different
Is a quote from Michael Abrash in his blogpost “Valve: How I Got Here, What It’s Like, and What I’m Doing“.
It is a bit of a long read, but here are some great snippets
So Valve was designed as a company that would attract the sort of people capable of taking the initial creative step, leave them free to do creative work, and make them want to stay. Consequently, Valve has no formal management or hierarchy at all.
My observation is that it takes new hires about six months before they fully accept that no one is going to tell them what to do, that no manager is going to give them a review, that there is no such thing as a promotion or a job title or even a fixed role (although there are generous raises and bonuses based on value to the company, as assessed by peers). That it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to allocate the most valuable resource in the company – their time – by figuring out what it is that they can do that is most valuable for the company, and then to go do it.
And one of my favourites
Hardest of all to believe is the level of trust. Trust is pervasive
From their website
We’ve been boss-free since 1996.
Imagine working with super smart, super talented colleagues in a free-wheeling, innovative environment—no bosses, no middle management, no bureaucracy. Just highly motivated peers coming together to make cool stuff. It’s amazing what creative people can come up with when there’s nobody there telling them what to do.
We’re always creating.
When you give smart talented people the freedom to create without fear of failure, amazing things happen. We see it every day at Valve. In fact, some of our best insights have come from our biggest mistakes. And we’re ok with that! Since 1996, this approach has produced award-winning games, leading-edge technologies, and a groundbreaking social entertainment platform. We’re always looking for creative risk-takers who can keep that streak alive.
Sounds like a company I could work for!
The employee handbook
Valve has published their employee handbook. Although it would be much more appropriate to call it “The New Employee Survival Guide”
A brilliant piece of work that offer us another glimpse in the workings of Valve. The subtitle is:
A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one’s there telling you what to do
A great summary of the vision of recruiting people for Valve is:
But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.
How about their stance on failures and mistakes:
Nobody has ever been fired at Valve for making a mistake. It wouldn’t make sense for us to operate that way
So how do you get anything done at Valve?
step 1. Come up with a bright idea
step 2. Tell a coworker about it
step 3. Work on it together
step 4. Ship it
But the best quote by far is in the glossary:
Gabe Newell: Of all the people at this company who aren’t your boss, Gabe is the MOST not your boss, if you get what we’re saying.
Economic theory behind Valve
And I’ll leave you with a quote from the economist in residence at Valve, when writing about Valve and his theory of corporations in a blog that is as long as its title: “Why Valve? Or, what do we need corporations for and how does Valve’s management structure fit into today’s corporate world?”
He seems to agree with the Stoos communique that we are in a bit of a mess.
Tags: stoos showcase, valve
Whatever the future of Valve turns out like, one thing is for certain – and it so happens that it constitutes the reason why I am personally excited to be part of Valve: The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge. The eradication of distribution and marginal costs, the capacity of producers to have direct access to billions of customers instantaneously, the advances of open source communities and mentalities, all these fascinating developments are bound to turn the autocratic Soviet-like megaliths of today into curiosities that students of political economy, business studies et al will marvel at in the future, just like school children marvel at dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History museum. I trust that Valve’s organisation will become, if not a central chapter, at the very least an important footnote in this historical turn