Organizational Processes

One thing that seems to be neglected at a fair number of game companies is the tuning of organizational processes (OP for short). OP relates to a wide variety of issues, including but not limited to: organizational structure, decision-making, corporate politics and culture, incentives and goal-setting, hierarchy, hiring, etc. Tuning OP isn’t simply a question of implementing, monitoring, or enforcing policies. and it is relevant to all managers, not merely HR professionals.

Unfortunately, I could write a few more paragraphs and you still might wonder what I was yammering about. So instead, I’ve decided to list some of my favorite readings from my old OP bschool course and summarize them for you. Hopefully, it will be immediately apparent why this stuff is useful! (Unfortunately, none of the readings are available for free — some are books, and some have to be purchased from Harvard for a few bucks.)

  • Six Dangerous Myths About Pay – Identifies widely accepted “fictions” about pay and offers advice on how managers should pay their employees. Some of these myths will seem obviously wrong to people in the game industry (like #6: people work primarily for the money), others may surprise you (#5: individual incentive pay improves performance.)
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Relevant to marketers and students of OP alike. Want your employees to respect your authority (and enjoy working for you?) Understanding the psychology of persuasion is key. You might feel a bit Machiavellian reading this book, but ultimately whether you use it for good or evil is up to you (seriously.)
  • The Hidden Traps in Decision Making – Examines eight psychological traps that negatively affect the way we make business decisions. Most of these traps are not “minor” or rare — they are common mental traps that can cause you to totally botch a project, throw away good money, falter in negotiations, etc. A worthwhile read.
  • Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work – The title says it all.
  • Six Myths About Informal Networks –and How to Overcome Them – As organizations have sought to become more flexible and “boundary-less”, informal employee networks have become increasingly vital to the health of a business. But because these networks do not receive adequate resources or attention, they’re often disrupted by managers (with negative consequences.) The article offers ideas for shoring up these networks.
  • Case Study: The Strategy That Wouldn’t Travel – A useful reminder of the importance of trust and respect when attempting to implement anything of significance within an organization.
  • Getting to Yes – A wonderful book about negotiation that doesn’t simply emphasize “getting what you want”, but rather “crafting a great deal” that makes everyone happy.

The course also featured some great readings about using the “three lenses” to understand any business situation, but I can’t seem to find any version of them online. I’ll have to write the professor. Suffice to say, they encouraged the reader to think through the strategic, political, and cultural implications of any situation before making any moves.

Consider this example: your company has made product X since it was founded. Product X was the primary driver of the company’s success for years, but now market conditions have changed, and no reasonable analysis shows even a glimmer of hope for X — the more you make of it, the more money you’re likely to lose. Strategically, it makes great sense to kill product X. But how about politically? (I.e. what if one or more people in upper management would feel threatened by the decision?) How about culturally? (A large percentage of your employees may really care about product X and what it represents. They may feel bound to its success or failure.) These political and cultural problems may be manageable if you identify and attempt to address them beforehand; they might not be, otherwise. (Btw, as far as the game industry is concerned, “product X” could have been “text-based adventure games” or “games for the early generation of Mac computers”.)

Anyway, some of you were encouraging me to share resources that I’d appreciated from business school, so there you go. 🙂

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