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Spoken But Unwritten

Because they may be called to account for their hypocritical behavior, you may find people in authority saying things like these, but you most likely won’t find them written into the Employee Handbook:

“Providing the freedom to fail is an important trait of the company— we couldn’t expect so much of individuals if we also penalized people for errors. Even expensive mistakes, or ones which result in a very public failure, are genuinely looked at as opportunities to learn. We can always repair the mistake or make up for it.”

“But problems show up when hierarchy or codified divisions of labor either haven’t been created by the group’s members or when those structures persist for long periods of time. We believe those structures inevitably begin to serve their own needs rather than those of Valve’s customers. The hierarchy will begin to reinforce its own structure by hiring people who fit its shape, adding people to fill subordinate support roles. Its members are also incented to engage in rent-seeking behaviors that take advantage of the power structure rather than focusing on simply delivering value to customers.”

“…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. If  you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life.”

“Our profitability per employee is higher than that of Google or Amazon or Microsoft, and we believe strongly that the right thing to do in that case is to put a maximum amount of money back into each employee’s pocket. Valve does not win if you’re paid less than the value you create. Over time, compensation gets adjusted to fit an employee’s internal peer-driven valuation.

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  1. April 14, 2013 at 2:49 am

    I remember a change process we went through at the Department of Training – called Third Horizon. The CEO meant well but he really was very scary. He would speak to us at conferences and you could hear a pin drop as no-one wanted to be in his focus. He implemented a strategy where there were posters with “Permission to Think” plastered on them. His ideas were ok but his value system was not consistent with his words 🙂

    • April 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Hi Lorraine, I think most executives do really mean well when they kick off initiatives, but they let them die on the vine when they realize that the impactful ones would transfer some “control” and decision-making responsibility out to the edges of the org.

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