Company Culture as Principles Pt. 3

Mighty Bear back when our “offices” were my apartment (note the laundry in the background)


In the previous two posts in this series (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2) I wrote about why we chose to define the company culture as a series of Principles early on, as well as taking a look at most of them. In this final part I’ll go over the remaining Principles and share the thinking behind them, as well as including a link to the very latest version of the Principles doc.

3. Mighty Bear is a meritocracy of ideas.

1. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas. If you have a better idea then speak up. Good ideas can come from anyone.

A lot of our best ideas come from newer team members who bring a fresh perspective. Great ideas don’t only come from the leadership group so we push everyone to contribute.

1. 1 If someone has succeeded at something three or more times and can explain how they did it, then they’re probably an expert and you should listen to them. Respect people’s expertise but don’t be afraid to challenge them.

People are generally pretty bad at separating luck from accomplishments but if someone has succeeded multiple times and can explain how then they’re probably worth listening to.

4. People perform to the best of their ability when they’re trusted.

1. We don’t micromanage people. Anyone who works here has the tools to figure out the best way forward.

We only hire people who can perform at a high level. We trust high achievers to work with their peers to figure out the best way forward without their managers micromanaging them. Of course, the door is also always open for people who need help to come and ask.

2. Our teams are small and everyone owns their piece of the game. It’s up to you to show what you can do and make your part of the game great.

Everyone is a “mini CEO” with ownership of their part of the game. We encourage everyone to take the opportunity to showcase their best work.

5. Culture wins.

1. Poor culture + great strategy = Poor results.

2. To succeed we need the right culture, environment, and methods.

The single most important element in determining whether we can succeed is culture, not strategy or talent. Great teams will find a way and solve complex problems even if their initial thesis is mistaken. Teams with a strong plan and a poor culture are less likely to make it through the inevitable roadblocks every company encounters. Talented teams with a great culture are unstoppable.

3. Our culture is not what we say or write. It’s the people we promote and the things we do.

Many companies also espouse high-minded principles while promoting individuals who don’t embody those values, and behaving in ways which are not consistent their values either. The only way these principles can be meaningful is if we live them.

4. We hire people based on what they can “add” to the culture. They don’t have to “fit” the existing template of a Mighty Bear employee, but they should compliment or improve our culture.

This could be an entire post on its own! The short version is that we look for people who bring something to the table in terms of culture — we don’t just hire based on talent.

5. We avoid conflicts of interest.

5.1 We have a “hard rule” on not hiring the partners of anyone working at Mighty Bear.

5.1.1 Should two employees become romantically involved then the ideal scenario will be that we keep them working on separate projects where possible.

5.2 If an employee hires a close friend then they should not report to them.

Many companies (especially large ones) are rife with nepotism. More often than not, one family member is the more important team member and another one is taking a space which could be given to someone more deserving. This has an awful impact on company culture and leads to politics and resentment. We avoid this by having a hard rule against hiring partners full-time.*

*If someone’s partner has a skillset we need on a short-term basis and they fit the culture we’re OK with considering them for a short-term contract (3 months maximum). One partner must never report to the other, and professional interactions should be limited between them. Even these short-term hires have to be approved by all 3 founders and there’s no possibility of making the hire permanent.

6 We have regular meetings which serve as “hygiene” for our culture and ensure everyone is aligned and current. These are morning standup, weekly game review, weekly studio review, and for managers, the weekly report.

6. 1 The entire management team is responsible for ensuring these take place as scheduled.

We avoid meetings as much as possible, but there are regular checks which are essential for monitoring team and project health.

6.2 Standup is not optional. You cannot “make-up” for miscommunications and introducing easily avoidable mistakes by working extra hours.

We’re pretty relaxed about most things (we don’t track things like the number of holiday days taken, or when people leave the office for example), but we do insist that everyone is present for the daily standup. Communication is key to success: we can’t afford people missing out on vital information because they weren’t at the standup.

6. Development only works when disciplines work as an effective counter-balance to one another.

1. The Producer’s main objective is to squeeze as possible much into the Sprint, the Lead’s (Art, Design, and Engineering) job is to push back to ensure that the sprint is not overloaded. An ideal state is one where the sprint is challenging but still has a some flexibility for iteration and responding to issues.

1.1 The Producer is responsible for dictating the development schedule and ensuring Artists, Engineers, and Designers have enough time to polish their content.

Having leads challenge each other in a respectful way ensures we get a project which is ambitious, yet polished.

2. The Artist’s objective is to put as much beautiful art as possible in the game. The Producer’s job is to ensure they’re not performing card tricks in the dark, and that they stick to the development priorities. The Client Lead’s job is to ensure they don’t bloat the Client file size.

2.1 The Client Lead has the final say the technical specifications of the art that goes into the game.

3. The Engineer’s main objective is to ensure the game runs smoothly and offers the players a satisfying, bug-free experience. In this instance, the Producer is there to ensure the Engineers have the time they need, but also that they don’t spend time over-optimising.

4. The Designer’s main objective is to define features and gameplay that will delight the players. The Producer’s should ensure these are of a reasonable scope and re-use existing systems as much as possible. If the Producer doesn’t do a good job of this, then the Artist and the Engineer should call out where optimisation and re-use of assets should happen.

In this section we outline exactly what we think the development discipline leads should do. As the studio grows over the coming years this will evolve to reflect the changes in how we work.

7. Our players are our guests.

1. There’s no place at Mighty Bear for people who are rude to (or about) our guests.

Player experience is at the core of everything we do. Someone who is rude about our players has no future with us.

2. A good host doesn’t keep their guests waiting.

2. 1 Loading screens and waiting times must be kept to an absolute minimum, even if it involves having a larger file size or less performant software overall.

We always aim for a “butter smooth” experience. Games are fun, waiting is not.

2.2. When a player asks a question we reply within 24 hours, no matter what.

If someone cares enough to write to us with feedback then we reply to them as soon as possible.

As the Principles are part of a “living” document here’s a link to our latest and greatest version. We are always updating it, so although these posts are great for showing how we think about things, they may not have the very latest principles.

That’s it for now! I hope some of you find this interesting or useful. If you enjoyed it then please leave claps and comments below.

Company Culture as Principles Pt. 3 was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.