Valve: ‘three employees can ship anything’

Tuesday, 30th October 2012 09:27 GMT By Dave Cook

Valve has shed more light on its internal practices, as employee Greg Coomer reveals more about the studio’s shipping policy, stating that all it takes to get something out the door is three employees.

Geekwire reports that Coomer discussed Valve’s policy at yesterday’s Interactive Conference in Seattle.

Coomer explained, “Three people at the company can ship anything. And the reason it is three people – because really it is one person can ship anything – but the work gets better if you just check with a couple of people before you decide to push a button.”

“If we are going to hire these incredible people,” Coomer continued, “and we are not going to put constraints on them, then we can’t be afraid to let them actually take charge and ship. That takes a lot of courage and trust.”

On Valve’s ‘you can work on whatever you want’ policy, Coomer added, “There are attributes that other companies have quoted about themselves, that they allow their [employees] to spend some fraction of their time actually deciding on their own what to work on, but at Valve that percentage of your time is 100 percent. Every single person is responsible for deciding what they do every day.”

“That can be pretty daunting,” he admitted, “Everyone is constantly making big decisions for the company, and deciding where we’ll go and what products we should build and so forth. It can feel like an exercise and an experiment in cooperative leadership.”

The interest in Valve’s inner workings was sparked by the leaking of the company’s employee handbook last year. It really is an astounding thing to read. Check it out here:

Valve’s Handbook for New Employees is full of awesome.



  1. KAP

    You’d imagin with policy like that there’d be way more leaks right.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. freedoms_stain

    @1, I’d be willing to bet the average salary at Valve beats the shit out of anywhere else. That’s good anti-leak insurance.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Hirmetrium

    I’m amazed Valve ship anything or hit any deadlines in regards to big game titles….

    Oh Wait.

    As amazing as the culture is, the fact is most people couldn’t hack it, would go insane, and not do any work all day. It also has massive negatives – like things not getting done because there’s nobody to command that they get done.

    Finally, good to know my catalog of games is looked after by people who could simply decide to work on something else at any time. Might explain the poor customer service.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Samuel

    A ship ship here, a ship ship there, here a ship, there a ship, everywhere a ship ship

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @3 I think – based on my interviews with Gabe and Chet Faliszek in the past, when Valve says ‘ship’ they mean individual features or DLC, not full games. Their monthly salary is part-based on the ‘shippable’ stuff they conceptualise or produce.

    Basically, any part or feature of a Valve game that works is ‘shippable’ in their eyes.

    #5 2 years ago



    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @4 +1

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dragon246

    I am just waiting for HL3……
    Maybe they should ship ship loads of money to the employee who can ship ship hl3 asap.
    It will be good for their profits margins too. My wallet says so crying :(

    #8 2 years ago


    What I really like like is the way that you still still haven’t corrected the headline headline!


    #9 2 years ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @9 Oh god :O

    #10 2 years ago
  11. DSB

    @3 They’re not the only tech company that works that way. It’s a pretty effective way to make sure that people put all their creativity into your business, instead of keeping their best ideas at home.

    Once you’re able to recruit a certain level of employee, I don’t think you need a slavedriver telling them to perform. It’s just what they do.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Da Man

    Very well put, #3.

    #12 2 years ago

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