Have you ever tried to ride a bull? You need sharp skills, courage, a bit of craziness and an ability to adapt with lightning speed to bull’s movements.
Working at organisations which grow very fast reminds me of bull riding. When several hundred people join a company’s campus during a year you should expect to change offices, switch projects and bump to a new person in your team every two weeks or so. These factors might decrease employees engagement. In addition, during fast growth management style tends to be more command and control than lead and adapt. It’s reasonable as many new people are not aligned with an organisation yet and couldn’t change direction fast enough all through self-organisation.
Thanks to the thoughts above I was sceptical with my expectations about visiting GoodGame Studios. The company has grown almost twice last year, from 800 to 1400 people. The reason for such rapid growth is a desire to bring new successful games to the market and diversify product line. Obviously, neither culture nor practices are homogenous and there are big differences from department to department. However, I was lucky to visit Tech department where Holger Tewis leads agile transformations and what I saw I liked a lot.
Arriving at GoodGame Studios, one thing I picked up almost instantly is a spirit. It’s very very positive. Employees are saying that changes are good and welcomed. Talking to them I felt that are glad to be part of the company and excited to see how the company is moving. They are not blind, perfectly aware of multiple challenges they have and eager to solve them.
Tech department stands slightly aside as it’s the first one they try to change the way products are created. They started this journey about 6 months ago and current results are quite impressive. 16 agile teams, increased transparency of development process and decision-making, active agile community of practice talk for themselves.
Going back to the company level, trainee program is a practice which works pretty well in GoodGame Studios and the one I’ve never seen before. The idea is to give new inexperienced employees an opportunity to work in several departments, see the differences and find a direction they prefer. During one year a trainee work in 3 projects, about 4 months each. Of course, trainees are not alone. There are mentors helping them to adapt to teams, answering questions, giving advices and teaching. Being a student I joined and quickly left two companies before I found web development beats everything. With a trainee program GoodGame Studios solves three issues at once: they keep talented students in the company, give themselves additional time to understand if a newcomer is good and greatly reduce the risk junior employees are dissatisfied with their first full-time job.
To hire a big number of people GoodGame Studios need to search for them all over the world. Many employees come to Germany for the first time when they join the company. It’s no surprise they have questions about culture, habits, laws and regulations, food and Hamburg. There is a small FeelGood Management team to help foreigners to adapt faster and feel at the company as at home. FeelGood ladies handle improvement requests, coordinate human-related activities among departments and work as business matchmakers connecting employees with each other. Most of them have psychological background and could help professionally with personal issues if needed.
GoodGame Studios is an interesting company with a great spirit and a number of engaged employees. I hope Tech department will infect others with its agile mindset soon as it’s a road to a long-term success.