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Company Without Bosses Flooded With Resumes

Forget bring your dog to work day, because Seattle-based software and game developer Valve Corporation opened the job applicant floodgates when the company let slip that it hasn't had a boss in 16 years. So much for the power of steady corporate leadership, right?

Valve Corporation, which has around 300 employees, posted its employee handbook online the other day and well, well, well, what do we have here? A company without leaders at the helm? Wowzers. Now everyone from lawyers to doctors to car mechanics is apparently bombarding Valve, whose video games include Half-Life, Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead if you're into that sort of thing, with resumes.

The folks at Valve believe that having employees "sit at a desk and do what they're told obliterates 99% of their value." Instead, the company relies on its own management theory called "flatland," where employees just sort of get together spontaneously to create cool stuff -- an organic, non-hierarchical approach, if you will. Everyone peer reviews everyone else's work (both good and bad) and salaries are based on the employee's value to the company.

But a company has to have someone who is shepherding things along (at least somewhat) or it would be total chaos, all the time, right? Every bee hive needs a queen bee. That's why Valve has "Team Leads" who keep track of projects and act as a "resource" for the employees working on them. It's sort of like "Team Leader," only without an "E" or an "R." And didn't we do this "flatland" stuff back in the late 1990s, only back then it was called "the flat organizational chart"? It's still around, of course.

Hmm. I'm not sure I'm completely buying into this "flatland," boss-less model of management yet. Managing by a shorter name is still managing -- micromanaging projects, in this case. It's a fact of life that there is a person in any group, work-related or not, who will step up to boss everyone else around, either by force of nature or quirk of personality. So I'd need to know more about what Valve is doing, exactly. Then again, I'm a jaded business journalist who has spent years chuckling over the creative ways in which book authors and start-ups will take an established business process or practice, rename it, and then try to pass it off as something new and totally trendsetting. But the flat org chart (er, "flatlanding"?) can be really cool when it works. That's an entirely different post, though.

Bottom line: Managers of the world, I think your jobs are still safe.


  1. I'm a jaded business journalist who has spent years chuckling over the creative ways in which book authors..
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  2. That is fascinating... not that it would work by being transplanted into another organisation with a history of hierarchy. I agree, there is a natural tendency for some people to boss others around, and others to be bossed around...
    Grown organically, though, over time, I'm sure it's a great model and it seems to work for them!


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