If you remember back to last month, the employee handbook from Valve was released online. There were a lot of interesting tidbits in there, the least of which not being ponies. However, one that might have been the most surprising was the fact that there really isn’t a management role to be found anywhere within the company. When you think about 300 employees working on a variety of projects, you might think it difficult to do without a hierarchy in place. Turns out, it’s actually not that difficult.
In a recent interview with Businessweek, Gabe cites one of his biggest inspirations for the company’s structure as being id Software. Why? Because at one time, a little game called Doom was installed on more computers than Windows. (For those that aren’t old enough to have experienced this game in its glory days, you could install it on DOS, so you didn’t need Windows to play) And that piece of software was created, marketed, and distributed by a company with only 12 employees. In the end, he settled on a model which had people working together in groups or as individuals, rather than in a tiered system involving bosses and subordinates.
What’s really interesting is that while this business structure works incredibly well most of the time, it does backfire on occasion. Because there aren’t a lot of checks and balances in place, one engineer could do some shoddy work that could go unnoticed for many months. In fact, this exact thing happened on Half-Life 2. It took them more than six months to catch the mistakes that were made. If you want to hear more about the inner workings of Valve, I recommend checking out the entire interview over at Businessweek.