The Bossless Workplace

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Like many tech companies, Valve Corp., a videogame maker in Bellevue, Wash., boasts high-end espresso, free massages and laundry service at its offices.

One thing it doesn't have: bosses

Valve, whose website says the company has been "boss free" since its founding in 1996, also has no managers or assigned projects. Instead, its 300 employees recruit colleagues to work on projects they think are worthwhile. The company prizes mobility so much that workers' desks are mounted on wheels, allowing them to scoot around to form work areas as they choose.

Welcome to the bossless company, where the hierarchy is flat, pay is often determined by peers, and the workday is directed by employees themselves.

So, how does anyone get things done?...
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303379204577474953586383604.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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I've worked in that sort of environment. It works extremely well, especially in a company where creativity is required. Organize a team. A natural leader will arise. Then the team inspires and motivates each member to be highly creative and productive.

Most people are not highly motivated on their own. So the traditional solution is to have a boss over everyone to crack the whip. In that environment everyone does at least the minimum to keep the boss of their back, but they are often not highly motivated to really excell. If you can develop cross functional teams in which the members are loyal to their team of friends, you can see an amazing degree of creativity and productivity.

I've also found that the most creative people often draw their inspiration in very nontraditional ways. One guy would play solitaire for 10 or 12 hours until he had his Eureka moment. Then he would approach the team with such an extremely high level of energy that he would inspire and motivate the team to an awesome level of creative productivity. Another hid at home for six weeks and returned with an idea that made millions. But I've seen these same guys just blend into the crowd and do nothing off nominal under a traditional management structure. Not everyone is like that, but if you have any working for you it certainly pays to give them an environment in which they can thrive.

Einstein said that creativity is the residue of time wasted. By that he meant that the things he did with his time to inspire his creativity are considered a waste of time and generally not permitted in a traditional management structure. Are we all not happy that he found an escape from that tradition? How many Einsteins have we missed because they were falling in line and doing nothing to rock the boat?
 
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  • #3
Ryan_m_b
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I'm given to understand that valve is one of the most successful video games companies out there. Sounds like a cool place to work though the method can probably only be applied to environments where all employees are very passionate about the role.
 
  • #4
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Ryan is right. Passion is required. But my experience is that this sort of structure leads to the development of such Passion. But perhaps some folks are not capable of work related passion and it would not work for them.
 
  • #5
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Who writes the paychecks? Wouldn't they be the boss?
 
  • #6
Ryan_m_b
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Who writes the paychecks? Wouldn't they be the boss?
I don't know about you but where I work the finance department writes my pay check and they are emphatically not my managers.
 
  • #7
Drakkith
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Sounds pretty cool as long as you have a type of job that could actually work this way.
 
  • #8
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I'm given to understand that valve is one of the most successful video games companies out there. Sounds like a cool place to work though the method can probably only be applied to environments where all employees are very passionate about the role.
Extremely successful. They basically kickstarted the whole First-Person-Shooter genre with Half-Life, which sold immensely well and won an insane amount of awards. From then on, they've had a good amount of successful games, all of which were praised for being creative and unique, which Pkruse would suggest comes from their unique work environment.

I would agree that this wouldn't be applicable to all jobs, only ones that are reliant upon creativity. Like for me, I work at a local ice-cream place. When our manager isn't there, we definitely have more fun, but our jobs usually aren't done as well, and the store isn't cleaned as well as it would have been were our manager there.

No creativity is required to hand-mix a shake and mop a floor.....
 
  • #9
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I don't know about you but where I work the finance department writes my pay check and they are emphatically not my managers.
I meant the pockets the money is coming out of.
 
  • #10
Ryan_m_b
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I meant the pockets the money is coming out of.
Unless of course the owner(s) aren't the bosses e.g. shareholders or employees/consumers (in the case of co-ops/mutuals).
 
  • #11
256bits
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No creativity is required to hand-mix a shake and mop a floor.....
You make it what you want to make it, manager or not.

Creativity is probably not one of the prime reason they overloards of this company would have chosen such an extermely flat managerial style and loose work environment. The creativity, if one is taking about unique products, could have obviously come from another direction as it does in many other companies from knowledgable decision makers.

A plaguing problem is solved by thinking about it and while some problems are solved at the desk, others that need creativity, quite often have the inspiration for an idea coming from the oddest places such as when on the way home from work, talking to a collegue, or on a walk in the woods. Here I am talking about a problem that does not need an immediate solution.

In this company setup, everyone eventually gets to know each other and what they can do. Brainstorming sessions are probably a common occurance. Employees are free to interact and would obtain information on more aspects of what is going on in the company than in a traditional setting, Offering unsolicited advice to someone would be appeciated and welcome.
Instead of one person working on one problem, many, even if that is not their own prime raison d'etre at the time, would be thinking about it and a better finer solution could be achieved.

In essence I think it is more about getting a much more perfect commodity out to market which is reflected in the companies innovative products.
 
  • #12
Borek
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They basically kickstarted the whole First-Person-Shooter genre with Half-Life, which sold immensely well and won an insane amount of awards.
It was an important step, no doubt about it, but the genre started about 6 years earlier with Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom.
 

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