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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The Needlessly Complex History of SaaS, Simplified

Benjamin Brandall
August 30, 2017

Look up the history of any modern technology, and you’re taken on a quick-fire tour of antiques, innovations, failures, successes, bubbles, booms, and busts.

Unlike the history of the Roman Empire or Greek poetry, software history is almost immeasurably short.

It’s rich and it’s exciting, but it’s also full of strange developments. Developments that never really went anywhere, but serve as warnings to organizations of the kinds of flops to avoid.

New terminology and seemingly revolutionary inventions have cropped up every single year since the 1960s, but by now most of what formed the foundations for today’s software market is obsolete.

The Department of Defense’s SaaS timeline is broad (and not particularly exciting-looking), but it gets the job done.

In today’s world, the majority of businesses and consumers use software-as-a-service (SaaS). If you define SaaS an application that can be accessed through a web browser and is managed and hosted by a third-party, then Facebook, Snapchat, Google — and many things that most people would just call ‘websites’ — are SaaS products.

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Software Testing Methods: How Google and Facebook Crush Quality Assurance

google-and-facebook-testing

There’s a big difference between successful software companies and those shoddy unverified apps you get off the app store:

Quality assurance.

While small-time apps aren’t heavily used, and the creator won’t receive many complaints or bad press if anything breaks, Google and Facebook are used by billions of people worldwide.

If a bug affects 0.01% of the user base in a small app, it’s not worth the energy. If it affects 0.01% for Google and Facebook, that’s thousands of complaints, and possible media scandal to deal with. And we all know what the price of that can be.

So, when it comes to studying quality assurance there’s no better examples than two of the biggest Internet companies in the world.

I’ve deliberately not chosen to give Microsoft the time of day in this post, because I’d say their QA is pretty damn weak for their size.

…However, read on to pick up tips from Facebook and Google on how to make software that doesn’t break down, cost you more money, and cause frustration for your customers.

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How Crane used Sharpie Markers to Snag 20k Facebook Likes in 3 Months

20k Facebook Likes

A few days ago I had a great call with Katie Sotor Vice President of Marketing for Crane to talk about a creative marketing campaign she ran that included sharpie markers, artists, and competitions. The campaign was extremely successful running for almost 6 months and netting 20k Facebook likes in the first 3 months.

Crane is a design company that takes ordinary boring products like humidifiers, air purifiers, and space heaters and turns them into beautiful creative designs.

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