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valvecracy

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Keep an eye on Valve, even if you're not into games

Valve is a strange company. So technically, they're a game maker, having created some of the gaming world's most beloved franchises: Half-Life, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Portal, and my personal favourite, Left 4 Dead. Their unprecedented support for the modding community as well as their traditional PC-first focus ensures an almost undying devotion from fans.

As great as all of the above is, it's not the reason for this item. No, I'm talking about Valve because the company is on the threshold of becoming a whole lot more than a 'mere' games and services company. In a long blog post, Micheal Abrash, Valve employee (and Microsoft, Intel, and id vet; he has worked on everything from firmware to drivers to processor design to more), revealed the company is working on wearable computing - more specifically, on augmented reality glasses. Yup, like Project Glass.

Before we get to that, though, Abrash offers an intriguing glimpse into Valve's unique company structure - namely, there isn't one. This has been known for some time now, but Abrash confirms it: there are no job titles at Valve, no managers, nobody telling you what you're supposed to do. The desks have wheels, so you can run them around the building to join the project you wish to join. There is no formal management or hierarchy at Valve. 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," Abrash details, "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. That if they decide that they should be doing something different, there's no manager to convince to let them go; they just move their desk to the new group (the desks are on wheels, with computers attached) and start in on the new thing."

The amount of trust the company places in its employees is quite extraordinary. Each and every employee has access to all the company's source code, and can perform changes if he or she so desires. "Any employee can know almost anything about how the company works and what it's doing; the company is transparent to its employees," Abrash adds, "Unlike many organizations, Valve doesn't build organizational barriers to its employees by default; it just trusts them and gets out of their way so they can create value."

"Valve's long string of successes, many of them genuinely groundbreaking, is strong evidence that the hypothesis that creative people free of restrictive rules are the key to success is in fact correct, and that the structuring of Valve around those people has been successful," Brash concludes, "And, almost by definition, its a great place for the right sort of creative people to work."

Type of company: Private (no stocks)
Founder(s): Gabe Newell, Mike Harrington
Employees: 293
Industry: Software Interactive entertainment

http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/valve-how-i-got-here-what-its-like-and-what-im-doing-2/