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Originally uploaded to http://cdn. flamehaus. comNalve_Handbook _LowRes. pdf Handbook courtesy ofValve H ANDBOOKFOR W E MPL OYEES NEW E MPL OVE ES oral to view nut*ge A fearless adventure in knowing What to d when no one’s there telling you what to do FIRST EDITION 2012 Table of Contents Preface .. How to Use This Book Part 1: Welcome to Valve . Your First Day Cabals, Team leads, Structure happens, Hours, The office Risks What if screw up? , But what ifwe ALL screw up? Part 3: How Am I Doing? Your Peers and Your Performance Peer reviews, Stack ranking (and compensation)
Part 4: Choose Your Own Adventure , 35 Your First Six Months Roles, Advancement vs. growth, putting more tools in your toolbox part 5: valve IS Growing Your Most Important Role Glossary. . 25 . 41 Hiring, Why is hiring well so important at Valve? , How do we choose the right people to hire? , We value “T-shaped” people, We’re looking for people stronger than ourselves, Hiring is fundamentally the sarne across all disciplines Part 6: Epilogue . 51 What Is Valve Not Good At? What Happens When All ThlS Stuff Doesn’t Work? Where Will You Take Us? 5 PAGF empowered to put their best work into the ands of millions of people, with very little in their way. This book is an abbreviated encapsulation of our guiding pnncples. As Valve continues to grow, we hope that these principles Will serve each new person joining our ranks. If you are new to Valve, welcome. Although the goals in this book are important, it’s really your ideas, talent, and energy that Will keep Valve shining in the years ahead. Thanks for being here. Let’s make great things. 0 2012 Valve Corporation. AII Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
ThlS handbook does not constitute an employment contract or inding policy and is subject to change at any time. Either Valve or an employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice. Employment with Valve is at-will, and nothing in this handbook Will alter that status. First edition: March 2012 Valve Corporation Bellevue, Washington USA www. valvesoftware. com Designed by Valve Typeface: ITC New Baskerville 10987654321 V ALVE: H ANDBO O K FO R NEW EMP LO YEES How to Use This Book This book isn’t about fringe benefits or how to set up your workstation or where to find source code.
Valve works in ays that might seem counterintuitive at first. This handbook is about the choices you’re king and freak out now thatyou’re here. For more nuts-and-bolts information, there’s an official Valve intranet (http://intranet). Look for stuff there like how to build a Steam depot or whether eyeglasses are covered by your Flex Spending plan. This book is on the intranet, so you can edit it. Once you’ve read it, help us make it better for other new people. Suggest new sections, or change the existing ones. Add to the Glossary. Or if you’re not all that comfortable editing it, annotate it: make comments and suggestions.
We’ll collectively review the changes and fold them into future revisions. Welcome to Valve WEL CO METO VALV E Valve Facts That Matter Fig. 1-2 Fig. 1-1 important in providing freedom to shape the company and its business practices. Valve owns its intellectual property. This is far from the norm, in our industry or at most entertainment contentproducing companies. We didn’t always own it all. But thanks to some legal wrangling with our first publisher after Half-Life shipped, we now do. This has freed us to make our own decisions about our products. Valve is more than a game company.
We started our xistence as a pretty traditional game company. And we’re still one, but with a hugely expanded focus. Which is great, because we get to make better games as a result, and we’ve also been able to diversify. We’re an entertainment company. A software company. A platform company. But mostly, a company full of passionate people who love the products we create. Welcome to Flatland Fig. 1-3 Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.
But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do What theyre told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where theYll flourish. Thars whv Valve is flat. It’s d wav of sayine PAGF s OF where they’ll flourish. Thars why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but ven he isn’t your manager.
This company is yours to steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products. A flat structure removes every organizational barrier V ALVE-: H ANDBO O K FO R NEW EMP LO YEES between your work and the customer enjoying that work- Every company Will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping you from figuring out for yourself What our customers want, and then giving it to them. If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, that sounds like a ot of responsibility,” you’re right.
And that’s why hiring is the single most important thing you Will ever do at Valve (see “Hiring ,” on page 43). Any time you interview a potential hire, you need to ask yourself not only if theyre talented or collaborative but also if theyre capable of literally running this company, because they Will be 2 Why does your desk have Wheels? Think of those Wheels as a symbolic reminder thatyou should always be considering where you could move yourself to be more valua ink of those wheels as that’s what they are, and you’ll be able to actually move your desk with them.
You’ll notice people moving frequently; often whole teams Will their desks to be closer to each other. There is no organizational structure keeping you from being in close proximity to the people who you’d help or be helped by most. The fact that everyone is always moving around within the company makes people hard to finda That’s why we have http://user—check it out. We know where you are based on where your machine is plugged in, so use this site to see a map of where everyone is right now. —6— Settling In Your First Month So you’ve decided where you put your desk. You know here the coffee machine is.
You’re even pretty sure you know what that one guys name is. You’re not freaking out anymore. In fact, you’re ready to show up to work this morning, sharpen those pencils, turn on your computer, and then what? This next section walks you through figuring out what to work on. You’ll learn about how projects work, how cabals work, and how products get out the door at Valve. What to work on Why do need to pick my own ro’ects? We’ve heard that other co people allocate a told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that ater).
Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. -8- SETTLINGIN If you’re working here, that means you’re good at your job. people are going to want you to work with them on their projects, and they’ll try hard to get you to do so. But the decision is going to be up to you. (In fact, at times you’re going to wish for the luxury of having just one person telling you what they think you should do, rather han hundreds. But how do I decide which things to work on? Deciding what to work on can be the hardest part of your job at Valve. This is because, as you’ve found out by novv, you were not hired to fill a specific job description. You were hired to constantly be looking around for the most valuable work you could be doing. At the end of a project, you may end up well outside what you thought was your core area of expertise. There’s no rule book for choosing a project or task at Valve. But it’s useful to answer questions like these: • Of all the projects currently under way, what’s the ost valuable thing I can be working on? ?? Which project Will have the highest direct impact on our customers? How much Will the work I ship benefit them? • Is Valve not doing somethin that it should be doing? • What Will the work ship • Is Valve not doing something that it should be doing? • Whats interesting? What’s rewarding? What leverages my individual strengths the most? How do find out what projects are under way? There are lists of stuff, Iike current projects, but byfar the best way to find out is to ask people. Anyone, really. When you do, you’ll find out what’s golng on around the ompany and your peers Will also find out about you.
Lots of people at Valve want and need to know What you care about, What you’re good at, What you’re worried about, what you’ve got experience with, and so on. And the way to get the word out is to start telling people all of those things. So, while you’re getting the lay of the land by learning about projects, you’re also broadcasting your own status to a relevant group of people. G ot an idea for how Valve could change hovvwe internally broadcast project/company status? Great. Do it. In the meantime, the chair next to anyone’s desk is always open, o plant yourself in it often. roblem or a threat, and it’s one with a clear cost, it’s hard not to address it immediately. This sounds Iike a good thing, and it often is, but it has some downsides that are worth keeping in mind. Specifically, if we’re not careful, these traits can cause us to race back and forth between short-term opportunities and threats, being responsive rather than roactive. So our Iack of a traditional threats, being responsive rather than proactive. So our Iack of a traditional structure comes with an important responsibility. It’s up to all of us to spend effort ocusing on What we think the long-term goals of the company should be.
Someone told me to (or not to) work on X. And theyve been here a long time! Because we all are responsible for prioritizing our own work, and because we are conscientious and anxious to be valuable, as individuals we tend to gravitate toward projects that have a high, measurable, and predictable return for the company. So when there’s a clear opportunity on the table to succeed at a near-term business goal with a clear return, we all want to take it. And, when we’re faced with a Well, the correct response to this is to keep thinking about hether or not your colleagues are right.
Broaden the conversation. Hold on to your goals if you’re convinced theyre correct. Check your assumptions. Pull more people in. Listem Don’t believe that anyone holds authority over the decision you’re trying to make. They don’t; but they probably have valuable experience to draw from, or information/ data that you don’t have, or insight that’s new. When considering the outcome, don’t believe that anyone but you is the “stakeholde< You're it. And Valve's custom. ers are who you're serving. Do what's right for them. -10- -11- Short-term vs. long-term goals V ALVE-: H ANDBO O K FO 10 YEES