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Steve Albers

If you haven’t had a chance yet, take a few minutes to look at the Valve New Employee Handbook at http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf 

Valve is best known for their Half-Life, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and Portal games, along with the Steam gaming platform. They put out a great product, and the Handbook shines a light into the process of developing great commercial software.  Some of the main points:

  • There are no management positions.

That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products.

  • As a company with no managers, employees are expected to find the best ways that they can contribute to the company.

We've heard that other companies have people allocate a percentage of their time to self-directed projects. At Valve, that percentage is 100.  Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions

  • Mistakes are expected as part of the creative, competitive process.

Screwing up is a great way to find out that your assumptions were wrong or that your model of the world was a little bit off. As long as you update your model and move forward with a better picture, you’re doing it right.

  • Employees are the seen as important long term corporate asset

If you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life.

In summary – hire great employees, then expect and empower them to make the company great.  Scrum has self-organizing teams; but Valve has created a self-organizing company and turned a nice profit doing it. 

Posted on Saturday, May 5, 2012 1:05 PM Scrum | Back to top


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