It's like they share ideas equally or something - oh wait, they do. Holtman says the bossless atmosphere "tends to work" when you resist looking for 'the leader'. "It's totally worth it."
The Valve exec explains the Valve culture is a weird one to adjust to but it works, leaving them able to pursue projects like Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal.
"He's super smart. He's a visionary. He's a great contributor to the company. He's the founder of the company. He's incredibly valuable," Jason Holtman said of Gabe Newell. "But if you were to say you were bossless, but you really did have one, you're deluding yourself or it's a bit of marketing. It's honestly not the case."
"One of the interesting things is, people like Gabe, they're very good at their jobs. You have to fight against the tendency to have those people treated as bosses sometimes. Not that they even want to, but it's natural for a new person to come in and say who is the leader? You have to fight against that. And as you fight against that, it tends to work."
"He sits with groups. Gabe moves around in groups and sits with us and talks with us. He goes to meetings with us, solves real problems with us, and has ideas and his ideas are like other ideas. You can easily say no, or tell more data on that and he'll work with you." Holtman added: "If you're going to be bossless, you really have to be bossless."
"We have in our culture and our culture of business a lot of ideas about what it means to work and advance and have groups. It's tough doing something different or doing something new. It's worth it, though. It's totally worth it."
Valve isn't without its leaders though, Holtman remarks. With large groups there are going to be an individual or two who "emerge as leaders and take on the function of leadership. If you've got 40 people working on something, leaders will have to emerge. They're not bosses. They're just people who can help you with this."
"That person may be the person who's looking around saying, there are external forces that would probably make us want to ship. And then what will happen is people will balance those off and say, is that person right or wrong? Or, is that group right or wrong?" Valve isn't without pressure to ship their projects.
"It didn't mean we never have somebody going we need to ship. What it meant was, in other types of structures sometimes it's really easy to just look at one direction everybody else is looking at and say, oh, what is that person saying? Let's go that way. Sometimes that just means you can move very quickly in that direction."
Valve Time - what is it? "It's an oddity," declared Holtman. The studio doesn't rigidly follow release schedules.
"In other cases what it means is people are usually slipping and it drives people nuts, because they're so used to being able to predict when that comes out. In our minds we say, that's not important. It's actually not super important if this thing comes out on the Christmas where we said it would come out last year and we thought that's when it was."
"What's actually more important is we build it right and it comes out in spring."
Check out thebetween Jason Holtman and Eurogamer.
Holtman: "If you're going to be bossless, you really have to be bossless"
19 July 2012 | By Simon Priest