No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “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.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

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2 Comments

  • By Carl Hoffman, November 6, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    I read the “Valve Handbook” that is circulating the Internet. As I was reading it I was reminded that some people can embrace ambiguity and others can not. I always add the real world is ambiguous. The most valuable parts of this work IMHO were the Epilogue and Glossary.

    A recent article in “Wired Magazine” quoted a former possibly disgruntled employee. It reads: “It is a pseudo-flat structure where, at least in small groups, you’re all peers and make decisions together,” she said. But the one thing I found out the hard way is that there is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company and it felt a lot like high school. There are popular kids that have acquired power in the company, then there are trouble makers, and everyone in between.” http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2013/07/wireduk-valve-jeri-ellsworth/

    However you said, “The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.” I agree we need to question the status-quo. I work in religion which is an old field. Many think this field should should go away because they classify it as a superstition. I admit we have not done intellectually well since The Enlightenment. Many religious leaders have changed the subject and embrace culture wars and politics in their conversation. These subjects increase exposure but I have resisted the temptation. I personally think we need to develop new metaphors that are compatible with scientific discovery and pragmatic philosophy. Presently, I am working on that task. One example is, Jesus acts as the interface between us and God. I hope my work is valuable.

    I would not like to work in a corporation because they want you to show up for meetings for the sake of meetings.

  • By Deborah, November 9, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    Carl, you are leading the way because you are embracing the technology that helps people communicate and share. Like religion, many people think that technology is unnecessary or makes us dependent or many other criticisms. I understand them and accept these perspectives.
    The reality is that many people need, like and respect religion – and the same can be said for technology. I am with you that we need new metaphors and paradigms that bring science, philosophy and humanity together in a pragmatic way.
    Albert Einstein said – “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Whatever one believes, it is in all of our best interests to listen, be open to each other and strive to find our common humanity while respecting each others rituals and traditions. I am very happy to be on this journey with you.

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