Secrets of the Cabal: Half-Life’s Organizational Management & Other Agile Tales

organizational management at valve corporation cabal process

From humble beginnings as a simple clone of the then-popular first-person shooter Quake, Half-Life would eventually become the first installment of one of the most successful video game series of all time.

Today, Valve Inc. is one of the most renowned, innovative, and successful game development companies worldwide, boasting one of the largest video game digital distribution service platforms on the planet, a range of pioneering virtual reality hardware and an impressive roster of instantly recognizable and widely-loved game titles.

Specifically, the development of the original Half-Life makes for an interesting case-study, and represents a model of innovative agile organizational management.

Half-Life is remembered as one of the best games of all time, and the intense environment in which it was created – where the Cabal process was born – is testament to that legacy.

Companies like Valve, Zappos, Semco, and even Google have come up with different models to enable the potential of their workers. These methods give power to the employees to pursue their own entrepreneurial pet projects.

Tesla’s innovation is equal part production process as it is the product; you need only look to the hulking Gigafactories to find evidence of this.

Similarly, Facebook’s success is not just in the service it offers users, but also how it was designed to scale to billions of users.

The process of organizational management is always an important factor in the outcome of these hugely successful products.

In this post I’ll be looking at democratic methods of organizational management, with a particular focus on Valve’s Cabal process. I’ll also mention a couple of other interesting examples of holocratic organizational management, and talk about our own internal structure at Process Street.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each section, if you want to jump ahead:

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Digital Democracy: Improving Communication and Trust in Your Business

digital democracyOne of the impacts of technology on how we do business is a greater ability to structure our companies differently and to leverage advantages which would previously have been difficult.

At Process Street, our team is based remotely. Which means we’re able to draw on a wealth of talent based all over the world.

Technology means that communication between remote employees can be as effective as it is within an office; sometimes conferring extra advantages.

I wrote for AppCues about how our internal systems are so robust precisely because we’re remote based and we need to take every step possible to make sure we don’t suffer any information loss in our communication. This has given us internal processes which are much stronger than many brick and mortar firms.

Being remote is not the only benefit technology can bring. New tech can flatten organization structures, effectively delegate more responsibilities while retaining accountability, and help to create cultures where everyone feels valued.

One of those factors is the ability to bring multiple stakeholders into decision-making processes; a shift which holds a fundamentally democratic ethos.

In this article we’re going to look at:

  • What is democracy?
  • What are the positives and negatives of incorporating democracy into an organization?
  • The democratic ethos in practice and how you could use it
  • 5 suggestions for how technology could facilitate democratic input

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