There have been a number of blog posts recently about exciting new organisational structures. As Cory points out “Every early stage company thinks it has reinvented management”: a very dangerous belief when betting on a new organisational structure can be much riskier than betting on the wrong product.

It starts innocently enough: version 1.0 has finally launched, early adopters have arrived, the graphs are definitely starting to point upward and it’s time to hire.

Growing the company is the next challenge, but no one has spent the last couple of years foregoing income and sleep to build another Acme Corp., in fact no one believes that an Acme Corp. would have been capable of launching version 1.0 which was clearly only possible due to having a room full of smart people and no management.

So, the first course of action is to hire more smart people and empower them to choose the right thing to do. This works for a while but eventually the CEO can no longer keep track of what everyone’s doing and some things are falling through the cracks.

This is clearly a scaling problem, so a scalable system is devised. Maybe everyone picks N tasks a week and votes on the most important, maybe this is 2 years ago and some bonuses are sprinkled on gamification style, or this is in 6 months time and some sharing economy social mechanics are wedged in.

Like all alphas there are some wrinkles and so the system is tweaked and iterated on, but now the organisational structure has become a second product. While some people are enthusiastically hacking on the organisation, they’re not working on version 1.3 which is late. Other people are frantically trying to get version 1.3 out of the door while another no longer buys the new organisational structure and has cashed in their last 2 years vacation along with the money they gamed from the bonus system to pay for a month long holiday in the sun.

Eventually it becomes clear that fighting on two fronts is not sustainable and the CEO decides to pivot to a more conventional organisational structure to concentrate on getting version 1.4 out on time. Some of the people who heroically got 1.3 out of the door would make great managers, but by this time they have either already burned out and left or are shopping their CVs to Acme Corp.

Luckily the product is still generating buzz, so a brace of experienced managers can be drafted in, but this generates even more organisational churn as some more of the smart people look up 4.5 years in to their 3 month project to discover that a lot of their friends have left.

The organisational structure that looked like a trivial problem compared to building version 1.0 results in version 2.0 never shipping.

Getting product decisions wrong costs time and money. Getting organisational decisions wrong burns even more valuable human capital and goodwill. Engineers at startups expect to make product pivots, but they don’t expect to be alpha testing an ever-changing series of organisational MVPs at the same time.

In many cases the ground breaking tech product and/or service is mostly a clever combination of commodity hardware and open source software connected to the internet and maintained by a small and heroic ops team.

Similarly, the innovative company is often a clever combination of existing organisational structures maintained by a small and heroic management team.

I’m currently very happy as one of the nodes in the middle left picture below. We’re hiring.

Organizational Charts (via bonkersworld.net )


Beyond Time Dilation?

Wed 29 January 2014 by Jim Purbrick

The Battle of B-R5RB

EVE online is a remarkable game. On Monday over 2000 people spent over 20 hours destroying virtual spaceships worth 200,000 USD in real money in what was the likely the largest battle in a video game ever. That EVE is capaple of supporting such large engagements is an amazing ...

read more

Osprey Therian

Sun 15 December 2013 by Jim Purbrick

In mid-2004 I first started exploring Second Life. Version 1.4 had just been released and Philip Rosedale had said in the press release “My fantasy is to be Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and now I can. I’d pay $10 for her yellow jumpsuit and sword moves and ...

read more

Parse By The Sea

Sat 19 October 2013 by Jim Purbrick

#parsebythesea

A few weeks ago Facebook London hosted the Parse By The Sea hackathon at the Brighton Dome as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. The idea was to take one of our internal hackathons on the road and invite members of the public to join us, turning a hackathon in ...

read more

Facebook Hackathons

Mon 16 September 2013 by Jim Purbrick

I’ve been a big fan of hackathons since one of the first Yahoo! Hack Days I attended at Alexandra Palace was struck by lightning. The lightning caused the fire alarms to go off which opened the roof to let the torrential rain pour on to hundreds of geeks and ...

read more

Brighton Digital Festival

Wed 04 September 2013 by Jim Purbrick

The Brighton Digital Festival starts this week and I’m very happy to be helping out with Facebook London‘s contributions: Parse By The Sea, a mobile app Hackathon featuring Parse on the 26th of September, and helping to Connect The Brighton Digital Festival by sponsoring Metranet to provide high ...

read more

Final Score

Thu 04 July 2013 by Jim Purbrick

Google Reader

Using Reader on my HTC Wizard on the loo was probably responsible for my biggest increase in clue ever.

Goodbye Reader, you’ll be missed.

read more

One Universe, Many Scales

Thu 10 January 2013 by Jim Purbrick

One epic meta-game design I first remember talking about a decade ago while working on Warhammer Online is the multi-scale online game: a system of interconnected games in which you choose to be a solo operative, work in a small group, or command epic forces or huge space fleets and ...

read more

Creatarr

Wed 09 January 2013 by Jim Purbrick

cc image by vdu, j4mie

One of the things I’ve been tinkering with since leaving Linden Lab is Creatarr: a creative, collaborative social game. Creatarr’s goal is to bring some of the magical collaborative creation found in Second Life to a wider audience and to push creativity in ...

read more

Following In My Father’s Footsteps

Mon 12 November 2012 by Jim Purbrick

Tintin Hair

From 2 years before I was born, until just before I started working on Second Life at Linden Lab, my Dad worked at an innovative technology company with a large consumer photography business: Kodak. From January next year I’ll be working at an innovative technology company with a large ...

read more

Caching Shared, Private Data With Ningx

Sun 11 November 2012 by Jim Purbrick

As with many other social services, a large amount of the data in EVE Online and Dust 514‘s New Eden universe is shared between subsets of users. Some corporation data should only be accessible to the corporation’s members, market prices should only be accessible to capsuleers and infantry ...

read more

Adding Vary Header Support To Nginx

Sun 14 October 2012 by Jim Purbrick

Although Nginx supports proxy caching it doesn’t provide support for the HTTP Vary header out of the box. This is a problem if you want to use Nginx to proxy different versions of the same URI which Vary on Content-Language or proxy different representations of a RESTful resource specified ...

read more

Load Balancing Stateful Services With Nginx

Mon 30 July 2012 by Jim Purbrick

The EVE online network architecture uses stateful proxy servers which manage sessions for players connected to the cluster via the EVE client. The client sends requests to the proxy which are forwarded on to sol servers maintaining the game state and the sols send notifications to the proxy which are ...

read more

Brighton Mini Maker Faire: The Movie

Thu 24 May 2012 by Jim Purbrick

A great video of the Brighton Mini Maker Faire last year by Andrew Sleigh showing the making of You’re The Boss 2. Applications for this year’s Maker Faire are now open and I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with this year!

read more

Super Hyperpolyglot

Sat 05 May 2012 by Jim Purbrick

A few years ago nearly all the code I wrote was in C++, but increasingly I’m finding myself writing in a variety of mostly C-style languages and having to perform crunching mental gear changes as I switch between them.

In the interests of making these language switches less painful ...

read more

100 robots Vs The Audience

Wed 04 January 2012 by Jim Purbrick

A couple of years ago I had great fun putting together the London Geek Community iPhone OSCestra at Open Hack London and I’ve been controlling Ableton Live with iPhone tapped to my guitar as part of 100 robots for a couple of years now so when @andybudd suggested I ...

read more

100 robots Attack!

Fri 09 December 2011 by Jim Purbrick

Lots of exciting 100 robots news! Our debut album, Attack!, has been professionally mastered by Chris at Melograf Mastering who has done an amazing job and made the album sound incredible. The new version is already available at bandcamp and will be available on itunes, amazon and many other download ...

read more

The JavaScript Jungle

Mon 03 October 2011 by Jim Purbrick

There was a slide in the early talks that Cory Ondrejka used to give about Second Life about alien abductions in Second Life. One of the most exciting moments in Second Life for the early Lindens was when a resident constructed a UFO and flew around the world abducting other ...

read more

Data Is Not Art

Sat 01 October 2011 by Jim Purbrick

This week I experienced two remarkable combinations of music and the moving image.

Natures 3B from Quayola on Vimeo.

This evening I watched Nature — Mira Calix and Quayola’s audio visual piece which took video footage of flowers blowing in the wind and used motion tracking technology to generate music ...

read more

You’re The Boss 2

Mon 12 September 2011 by Jim Purbrick

You're The Boss 2 Screenshot

A week ago over 5000 people streamed through the foyer of the Brighton Dome to see and build hundreds of amazing things at the first Brighton Mini Maker Faire. Luke and I went along with 2 laptops, a scanner and a pile of pens, paper, glue and scissors to make ...

read more
Fork me on GitHub