Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Hardware Games

Former Valve Hardware Designer Recounts Management Difficulties 224

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lord-of-the-flies dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes "Jeri Ellsworth has opened up about her time at games developer Valve and has hit out strongly at the so-called flatpack management structure. She says that despite Valve's claims of a democratic structure, there is a layer of powerful management in place and when she was fired she felt like she had been stabbed in the back. 'If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I am really, really bitter. They promised me the world and then stabbed me in the back.'" Develop Online has a good transcript. In the end, Gabe Newell at least let her team keep the rights to their augmented reality hardware. She also notes that she still loves Valve, but the management and bonus structure resulted in communication breakdowns at Valve's size. It does seem that a flat structure can work: Andy Wingo has been weblogging about working at Igalia and seems pretty positive about the experience.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Former Valve Hardware Designer Recounts Management Difficulties

Comments Filter:
  • The standard text is The Tyranny Of Structurelessness [jofreeman.com] by Jo Freeman.

    tl;dr: if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form and bite you in the ass.

  • Re:C64 DTV designer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hamster_nz (656572) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @06:00AM (#44223443)

    I assume this is the same Jeri Ellisworth that designed the Commodore 64 Direct to TV unit?

    Yes, uber-hacker-maker. Has a collection of self-restored electron microscopes.

    Much smarter & more creative than your average person.

  • by Arrepiadd (688829) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @06:04AM (#44223463)

    I haven't had the time to read the text you post, I'll try to do it later on tonight. So, this may be a bit off, I'm posting this based on your tl;dr.

    W. L. Gore and Associates [wikipedia.org] (the company responsible for Gore-Tex) can be used as a counter-example to what you/Jo say. There are no bosses (everyone is an associate) and people work in small teams. No one bites others in the ass. And the company, while not the biggest in the world or whatever, works fine and people in it seem to be happy.

    One key element seems to be the size of each of its campuses. They limit them to 150 people. More than that and what you mention starts happening. A de facto hierarchy arises and bickering ensues. But below these numbers (and this seems to be corroborated by other sources) people work as in a small community/village and peer pressure keeps everyone working nicely. Above 150 people clustering of people occurs and, while peer pressure still occurs within these groups, the problems still occur in between groups.

    So, perhaps flat structures do happen, but only in small groups because "friends" take care of their friends, but employees don't necessarily take care of other employees (especially when the employee he's supposed to take care of is his nasty boss).

  • Re:C64 DTV designer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @08:07AM (#44224007)

    No, it's the same Jeri that made a half-working prototype typical of a college project, completed and manufactured by a German dude, who passed things back to her as salesperson. She's spent the next 9 years selling herself as more capable than she is, then whining when people get fed up with her.

    Sophie Wilson she ain't.

  • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @08:48AM (#44224215) Journal
    That doesn't sound significantly different than traditional hierarchies. Just look at most politicians and CEOs.
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @09:06AM (#44224359)

    tl;dr: if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form and bite you in the ass.

    Wikipedia is a perfect example of this. Officially, there isn't supposed to be any hierarchy of editors. Administrators are supposed to be "janitors", just doing non-controversial maintenance work, and aren't supposed to have more rights than regular editors on articles. In practice, of course, it doesn't work that way, and there is a very clear hierarchy which usually remains unspoken. What you can get away with on Wikipedia depends a *lot* on whether you're an administrator, how long you've been on the site, whether you are an old friend of Jimbo's, and whether you kiss the right butt on IRC.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @09:25AM (#44224475)

    > It's not like Valve doesn't have a release cycle that's about 5 times as long as that of other studios and whilst their games are good they're not any better than those of many others to justify the absurdly long development times.

    Valve, Blizzard, etc have already explained their thought process ...

    * If a good game is shipped late no one will remember it was late.
    * If a bad game ships on time no one will remember it was on time.

    You gotta love these self proclaimed armchair "experts" complaining about Company X to make Product Y because obviously these "experts" have mastered the process of game development and how hard it is to a) ship something b) good.

    --
    In ~ 10 years Humans will finally be allowed to know first hand that they are not alone

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @09:54AM (#44224805) Homepage

    One key element seems to be the size of each of its campuses. They limit them to 150 people. More than that and what you mention starts happening. A de facto hierarchy arises and bickering ensues. But below these numbers (and this seems to be corroborated by other sources) people work as in a small community/village and peer pressure keeps everyone working nicely.

    I'm not so sure that's an accurate description of what happens. Under almost all situations, people will develop a de facto hierarchy. It may be fairly fluid and casual, but even among a group of 5 friends, there will usually be some kind of pecking order. Under 150 people, there's the possibility of that de facto hierarchy being managed well without formalized structures. Over 150 people, the social bonds become thin, and factions will form and compete with each other for power.

    I would tend to agree with the analysis, "if a visible hierarchy isn't allowed, an invisible one will form." It's not certain whether it will bite you in the ass. One of the obvious ways it's likely to bite *someone* in the ass is if that person believes that they're setting themselves up to be "in charge" of this non-hierarchical structure, but that person doesn't have the social power and charisma to maintain their position by informal means. That is to say, if you start a company and create a flat structure without formally putting yourself in the position of being "in charge", then you'd better be popular. Otherwise, someone else might decide to take the reigns, and they might get more support in the ensuing power struggle.

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

Working...