Valve trades traditional managerial structure for free body massages.
Those opening the first page of Valve's latest guide for new employees will be met with a simple block of text containing the following words: "A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one's there telling you what to do." Thus begins a six section, fifty-six page manual, written to help company newbies acclimate to what sounds like a severely strange, yet astounding awesome place to work.
The handbook, in all of its scanned PDF glory, was uploaded in its entirety to flamehaus.com with Valve's blessing, and comes complete with everything from quirky little illustrations (including a baby Chell/baby Gordon Freeman picnic) to a glossary defining everything from Australia to Gabe Newell.
"This book isn't about fringe benefits or how to set up your workstation or where to find source code," reads the preface, "Valve works in ways that might seem counterintuitive at first. This handbook is about the choices you're going to be making and how to think about them. Mainly, it's about how not to freak out now that you're here."
Giving the text even a brief glance should tell you exactly why some people may "freak out" during their first few weeks at HQ. Valve employees are encouraged, if not mandated, to find their own project to work on, and set their own goals to judge its successes and failures. According to the book, there's little to no traditional managerial oversight, allowing workers to join with whom they'd like, and do whatever they think sounds productive. Oh yeah, Valve also does your laundry, gives you free food, has a gym, and a massage parlor. So, there's that.
"Over time, we have learned that our collective ability to meet challenges, take advantage of opportunity, and respond to threats is far greater when the responsibility for doing so is distributed as widely as possible. Namely, to every individual at the company," the handbook says. "We are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers. They watch us, sometimes very publicly, make mistakes. Sometimes they get angry with us. But because we always have their best interests at heart, there's faith that we're going to make things better, and that if we've screwed up today, it wasn't because we were trying to take advantage of anyone."
And, just because its impossible to bring up Valve without bring up Half-Life 3 (even internally, it would seem), yes, there's a reference in the manual. Figure 2-4, entitled: "Methods to find out what's going on," contains an image of some dude on an elevator talking to another dude in the same elevator who's wearing (gasp!) a Half-Life 3 t-shirt! Clearly this means that Valve is just about to release it, and clearly we should all be prepared to experience the final resolution to Mr. Freeman's tale in Q4 of 2012. Clearly.