To Brad Wardell: Enterprising Small Company to a Larger Bureaucracy - how to ensure quality

By on February 13, 2011 7:59:09 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Vandetta534

Join Date 11/2003
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Hi Brad, and also anyone on the forum please feel free to comment,

Anyways, I just wanted to say I discovered Stardock when you guys were still working on the original Galactic Civillizations - and I must say I fell in love with the company.

However, I do have some concerns going forward. I think it might be easy to manage a small firm and ensure good quality products.  However, with the release of Elemental it seems Stardock is beginning to transition from a small firm, that can be easily managed from the top-down by a single individual, to a much larger bureaucracy.  At this stage in the business, I think corporate management might need to take a transition from one where management is centralized to one that is very decentralized.  I imagine you have already decentralized much of management throughout the company, or else you would have surely had a stroke by now.

The key question though, is how do decentralize management while still ensuring the company is known for quality and can still attract the love and adoration of its customers that it was able to as a small enterprise.  The answer, I believe, is you need to seek a corporate system, a culture, which ensures the system can manage itself towards maximum quality.  This goes beyond just quality of the end-product, but also ensures maximum quality in inter-department communication, maximum quality in employees (both performance and job satisfaction), and maximum quality in management.

As your firm progresses forward to a larger enterprise I would absolutely hate to see it go the way of most large firms, where all aspects of quality fade and the company loses its "soul" and becomes just another bloated inefficient firm.

To this end, I can't recommend enough (if you haven't already) that you read W. Edward Deming's "Out of the Crisis," which lays the framework for Total Quality Management.

It was written in 1986 and I think the vast majority of large firms still suffer from most of the problems Deming outlined.

Here's an excellent review on Amazon that highlight Deming's 14 principles and what he describes as the 7 deadly diseases:

W.Edwards Deming is one of the leading thinkers of modern management as a key originator of total quality management. D.Wren and R.Greenwood write, in their 'Management Innovators,' "Deming was critical of U.S. management, perhaps because he had been ignored far so long, but more probably because U.S. firms were losing market share to more quality-oriented competitors. He blamed U.S. management because the wealth of a nation did not depend on its natural resources but on its people, management, and goverment: 'The probem is where to find good management. It would be a mistake to export American management to a friendly country.' "

In this context, in Chapter 2, in order to transform American industry, Deming presents the 14 points that constitute his theory of management:

1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

2. Adopt new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

6. Institute training on the job.

7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.

8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.

11. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

12. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.

14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.

According to Deming application of these points will transform style of management. Unfortunately, some deadly diseases stand in the way of transformation. Thus, in Chapter 3, he identifies seven deadly diseases that cause the decline of American industry:

1. Lack of constancy of purpose to plan product and service that will have a market and keep the company in business, and provide jobs.

2. Emphasis on short-term profits.

3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review.

4. Mobility of management, job hopping.

5. Management by use only of visible figures, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable.

6. Excessive medical costs.

7. Excessive costs of liability, swelled by lawyers that work on contigency fees.

I highly recommend this business classic for all managers.

As it is right now I love your work, your company, the products and services you and your employees are able to produce and I eagerly await the next thing you guys come up with.  In the mean time I'll remain hopeful that as your firm becomes larger and expands that you don't go the way of <insert 99% of all American firms here>.

Best Regards,

-Justin.

Edit: Changed the forum location, thought this was a better location for this post.

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February 13, 2011 8:52:33 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I just wanted to add a little picture I threw together in MS Paint, so you'll have to forgive it being so crude.

But, anyways I drew it to illustrate one of the benefits that a successful implementation of TQM can have on large bureaucracies.  One overarching feature of TQM is constant feedback and cyclicality, which can lead to progressive adaptation and constant improvements in total quality even as the firm constantly grows larger.

Average firm vs TQM

One thing I tried to emphasize in image #2 is that even in a firm that has implemented principles of TQM problems will still always arise, but what TQM seeks to do is put in place "governors" directly into the system so that the same problems don't repeatedly arise again and again.  It doesn't ensure perfect quality, but seeks to constantly and always improve quality as time goes on.  The firm never reaches perfection but always grows closer towards perfection.  On the other hand in image #1 where information only flows from the top down (or even when there is cyclical feedback between departments, but gets bottle necked somewhere in the corporate system) any improvements tends to be random and over time the firm simply stagnates.

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February 17, 2011 9:37:06 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Anyone know how I can edit my follow up post, I seem to be able to edit the first post, but not the one with the picture...

Ok...maybe I can't get a direct link to the image with google docs, so hopefully this works: Most firms vs. TQM

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February 17, 2011 9:49:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think that this is great.

Advice from you is exactly what this multi-million dollar yearly profit company needs. Do you have any other sage advice for the UN or perhaps the United States, too? What is your opinion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the rising economic power of China? How exactly does their difficulty with inflation influence their standing as an export based economy?

Maybe I can get in touch with Dr. Ki-Moon or President Obama? Perhaps General Petraeus. I'm no genius, but I have a good feeling that they'd like to hear your opinion as well.

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February 17, 2011 9:58:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oh well, I think his heart is in the right place.   A bit like Stardock itself.  But that doesn't mean that Elemental, Impulse (and other products) can't be great going forward.

Best regards,
Steven.

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February 21, 2011 3:33:56 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I think that this is great.

Advice from you is exactly what this multi-million dollar yearly profit company needs. Do you have any other sage advice for the UN or perhaps the United States, too? What is your opinion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the rising economic power of China? How exactly does their difficulty with inflation influence their standing as an export based economy?

Maybe I can get in touch with Dr. Ki-Moon or President Obama? Perhaps General Petraeus. I'm no genius, but I have a good feeling that they'd like to hear your opinion as well.

Why so defensive, my intent was only to offer some constructive advice, and Deming's work on TQM is a very important piece of work in regards to business management, especially when small firm begins to transition into a much larger bureaucracy.  TQM was implemented in a large scale in Japan, and even in spite of their 1989 financial bubble burst they are still the third largest economy in the world, and only represent about 1.9% of the global population.  I don't think anyone should hear what I have to say on the subject, but I think people should heed what Deming had to say.  He was brought to Japan after WWII by the US army and the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers enlisted Deming to be a major player in the reconstruction of Japan.  If you don't recall, before the financial bust in 1989 many of our best products were Japanese imports, and they were cheaper and of better quality then what we were capable of producing domestically.

Anyways, you seem to know nothing about the subject so your immediate defensive posture I have to regard as little more than verbal diarrhea.  I really cant understand why you are so defensive in regards to my post.

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February 21, 2011 6:00:42 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

You probably mean well, or you have just done a new module for your degree and like to show off some things you learned, it's hard to judge as an observer, but do you really think posting this in the General section of a game forum is the best platform for you to achieve what you are after?  Even a pm to Frogboy seems more appropriate, although maybe just as unlikely to have impact.

I guess the reason you were derided was more that fact that you look like you are assuming Frogboy needs to be told how to run his company on this video game forum.  Do you really think someone in his position doesn't research and implement basic business strategies?

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February 21, 2011 7:10:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Brad's already thought of this stuff- you can read the dev blogs for that.

 

He's pretty smart so I'm sure if a solution can happen, he'll think of it.

 

 

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February 21, 2011 7:25:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

None of what the OP wrote about has any relevance without knowing the company. It's just text book dogma, that may be extremely unsuitable for any given company. It would be far more interesting to talk about how stardock has solved each of these basic issues that any company with a need for managers face.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

Irrelevant for a software company.

4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

The product is not continuous, once produced there are few additional costs. This advice cannot be applied to such produce.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

Great. How do we do that? I'm sure every business in the world would like to know how to increase quality and service and productivity while decreasing costs.

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

How is this appropriate for a growing company tasked with different markets?

11. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

How is substituting leadership compatible with avoiding nr 4 of the threats, 4. Mobility of management, job hopping.


 

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February 21, 2011 9:47:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting LightofAbraxas,
Advice from you is exactly what this multi-million dollar yearly profit company needs.

 

Holy crap, this was my exact thoughts!

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February 21, 2011 10:29:29 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

None of what the OP wrote about has any relevance without knowing the company. It's just text book dogma, that may be extremely unsuitable for any given company. It would be far more interesting to talk about how stardock has solved each of these basic issues that any company with a need for managers face.

Agreed!

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

Irrelevant for a software company.

It is true that Deming's original work was geared towards manufacturing and certain principles need to be adapted to fit different industries. However, TQM is a process or a framework, it is not a strict doctrine to follow.  As an example Toyota had its roots in TQM, but has adapted it for their specific business, which is now known as The Toyota Way.  But, the TQM process as a whole is not a framework incapable of being applied to the software industry, have a look at Total Quality Management in Software Development Process, it is quite accessible and relatively easy to read and digest.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

Great. How do we do that? I'm sure every business in the world would like to know how to increase quality and service and productivity while decreasing costs.

The process is outlined in Out of the Crisis I'm sure you can pick up a copy at your local library.  I have merely listed the principles involved, but a detailed discussion of the principles are contained in about 500 pages.

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

How is this appropriate for a growing company tasked with different markets?

I don't understand how it wouldn't be appropriate.  You don't think a process, algorithm, design philosophy, etc developed by one department for a specific market might have a common utility in all aspects of the business?

11. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

How is substituting leadership compatible with avoiding nr 4 of the threats, 4. Mobility of management, job hopping.

This is probably a better explanation, although brief, of principle 11:

Eliminate management by objectives

Setting production targets only encourages people to meet those targets through whatever means necessary, which causes poor quality.

For project managers: On the surface this principle probably sounds like heresy to most of us -how can a project be managed if targets aren’t set? Well, it can’t, but that wasn’t Deming’s point. He’s talking about short-sighted versus thorough planning. Setting targets in response to a problem without first understanding and addressing the root causes in the processes will only lead to more quality problems.

Milestones are the predominant targets for projects, and they need to be challenging to motivate the team, but they have to be achievable and flexible. Yet flexibility is one of the most common scheduling failures a project manager makes, especially on projects that are very iterative and involve rolling wave planning.

As these projects progress, milestones have to be continually reassessed, and this often means that the original dates get pushed. Too many of us perceive these readjustments as “missing our target” because we’re too married to dates that were only best-guesses or top-down estimates set early in project planning. We also should be careful to present milestone dates to stakeholders as estimates and help them understand the iterative nature of these kinds of projects — as the project is better understood and the work needed becomes clearer, milestone dates may change.

More detalis on each principle can be found here.

That site listed above also, in my opinion, has a better analysis of principle #3 as it might apply to software development:

Cease dependency on inspection

Deming is reminding management that the need for inspection will decrease if quality problems are prevented in the first place.

For project managers: We all know that prevention is better than inspection, so our project management and execution processes need continual improvement methods built into them to reduce quality problems.

But inspection goes beyond its purely quality connotations. Are we propagating a management style based on inspection? If our team has a tendency to run everything first past us for approval then we may be, and that isn’t good for us, the team, or the project.

Our responsibility as a project manager isn’t to be the funnel through which everyone seeks approval. If that’s what is happening then the project will stagnate and become inflexible. Instead, let’s make sure we create a project culture where the team has the skills, information, and experience it needs to make every-day, rapid decisions on its own.

As far as some of the other posts go: No, this isn't a part of any degree program or a new module I'm currently reading about.  I stumbled across the book by happy accident while discussing politics and business practices with a retired McDonald's executive who oversaw operations in Hawaii during the 90's.  As far as whether or not Mr. Wardell has read Out of the Crisis and the work of Deming, I am not sure - that is why I decided to offer it here.  I am not trying to tell him how to run his business, but if he's not familiar with Deming's work I think it might be very helpful in the process of transitioning a business to higher levels of ever increasing bureaucratic complexity, which is inevitable as a firm expands.  

Also, I was not aware that I could contact Brad Wardell directly.  However, there has always been a lively discussion and spirit of community involvement between Stardock and its customers, which I have appreciated immensely.  In that same spirit I figured I would post this to the forums so everyone might weigh in.

...and, yes I do believe Brad Wardell is a very smart and talented guy.  However, I don't believe he has thought of everything, and I am not sure if he is familiar with Deming's work. If he isn't he might find some concepts and ideas very useful going forward.

I can't help but get the feeling I am trying to blast Stardock as a company, to the contrary I think its one of the best, if not THE best, software firms out there in my opinion.  I just hope it stays that way.  I referenced Toyota above, so I'll briefly return to the automotive industry.  Henry Ford was a very smart guy too, but the Ford company itself hasn't exactly stood the test of time, on the other hand I would posit that Toyota is a company not only rooted in TQM, but has stood the test of time independent of who has been in top management positions.

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February 21, 2011 10:48:55 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Lord Xia,

Quoting LightofAbraxas, reply 3Advice from you is exactly what this multi-million dollar yearly profit company needs.

Holy crap, this was my exact thoughts!

I think to look at profit alone is a mistake, and have time and time again been a major contributing factor to what has undone many firms. In 2010 Microsoft posted $18.76 billion in after tax profits.  However, from reading Brads post I highly doubt he would want to see Stardock look anything like Microsoft.

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February 21, 2011 10:59:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

No, I think you miss the point.  You are taking some college class I guess, and instead of telling someone who is already successful about a book you read, you should be asking Brad's advice on running a business.  You know, because he does so already and has done so for a long time successfully.  Or you could ask him if he agrees on the point of the book.  Since he has the real life experience.  Trust me, I work in a very different field, but I can tell you that books and classes are nice, but don't mean shit until you are really in the field working. 

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February 21, 2011 11:27:54 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

As I mentioned above, I did not stumble upon the conceptual framework of TQM from a class.

Also I think I might need to reiterate my intentions of this post: 

A. Stardock has always been synonymous with quality products, however, I think the release of Elemental was a large first bump along the road as Stardock expands its business.

B. Customer's are stake holders of Stardock too.  Before the release of Elemental I would not have hesitated to purchase any of their products upon release.  Now, upon the next release of a Stardock product I will wait for the reviews, this has degraded the value of Stardock as a company, but hopefully it is only temporary.  It all depends on how the Stardock bureaucracy is defined going forward.  This could be either a turning point that leads to Stardock producing more and more products with lower and lower quality...or, Stardock could continue to produce more products with ever increasing quality. 

C. Brad, are you familiar with Deming and Total Quality Management? Yes? Fantastic! No? You might want to have a look, from many of your blog posts I think the framework he outlined might be right up your alley.  Maybe you will agree with some of the core framework he lays out, maybe you will agree with all of it, but I definitely believe you will be able to extract some value from his work.

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February 21, 2011 11:35:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

However, with the release of Elemental it seems Stardock is beginning to transition from a small firm, that can be easily managed from the top-down by a single individual, to a much larger bureaucracy.


How so? The company is small and housed out of a single building, and it is privately run. Brad even showed us a standard chart for each development team, and the teams have only necessary pieces, and sometimes those pieces are in multiple places (Wearing many hats, as it were).

The key question though, is how do decentralize management while still ensuring the company is known for quality and can still attract the love and adoration of its customers that it was able to as a small enterprise.


No. No no no. In a software company, decentralizing management is terrible. It's why we end up with games like Civ V - Pleasing too many people (i.e. shareholders, publishers, corporate management from all directions) because of a non centralized management.

When you're in software, the fewer people you have to deal with to get to the top, the better.

As it is right now I love your work, your company, the products and services you and your employees are able to produce and I eagerly await the next thing you guys come up with.  In the mean time I'll remain hopeful that as your firm becomes larger and expands that you don't go the way of <insert 99% of all American firms here>.


If you like the company, why do you think it's transitioning in a negative way?

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February 21, 2011 12:26:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with Tydorius, you need to argue your standpoint that decentralizing the company is something beneficial - both from a company transitioning, and for a company specifically like Stardock. Again, not a given.

Guys, I think we have some honest advice here and let's debate it openly. Brad Wardell may not need it, but that doesn't mean the intent was anything but good and it doesn't mean it isn't interesting to talk about.

Vandetta534, reading your posts it is difficult to get a grasp of the book because you appear "sold" on it. We understand that you perceive it as helpful, but - in your opinion - what is not so great with the book? What is missed or skimmed over? You told us what you think is good about it - now tell us what you think is bad about it.

I don't understand how it wouldn't be appropriate.  You don't think a process, algorithm, design philosophy, etc developed by one department for a specific market might have a common utility in all aspects of the business?

Because you are assuming a point of origin that may not be correct. If there were high barriers between teams, making synergy effects almost nonexistant, it may be relevant. But what we know of Stardock, it is the opposite. I'm not questioning that _a_ company might gain benefits from it, I'm questioning whether _any_ company might gain benefits from it. It comes back to analyzing each specific company on its own, and not applying a culture that may be ill suited. But that we agreed on already.

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February 21, 2011 2:05:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree - His last paragraph points out that he loves Stardock, so it's not a troll post or anything, it's a legitimate post. But using a book from 1986 isn't very applicable. I'm sure it's intuitive and enlightening, but very few points have an effect on a company like Stardock:

1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.


Stardock is constantly dedicated to creating quality programs, and when they do screw up, they make efforts to fix it even if they lose money. They can do this because they do not rely upon single releases like a lot of small game companies, where each year rests on the fate of single games. They have a full suite of different softwares available at any one time, so they are competitive and able to stay in business while maintaining their mission.

The provide jobs thing is not necessary, as good business typically has very few 'fluff' jobs, only employing those they require. But we know Stardock is hiring.

2. Adopt new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.


This book is a bit outdated. This is 2011, and so this principle from 1986 has already come to fruition across the board.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.


In 1986 software companies were nothing compared to what they are now. People were paid by lines of code vs. the efficiency of the code. This is a false point for any software business now because "inspection on a mass basis" is basically another way of saying beta. Stardock's run with Elemental initially failed because the beta was not long or large enough. The code was quality, the people were quality, the concepts were quality, but in the end the mass inspection was not big enough.

4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.


Irrelivant for software - The only overhead is equipment, utilities, and paychecks (Equipment including software), and Stardock builds their own engines to cut costs for future games. Some aspects can be applied to certain things, like their hardware suppliers etc., but most of the time in this day and age it is more profitible to have business accounts with multiple companies. I can have an account with NewEgg, Tiger Direct, and Best Buy, and shop at any of the three to compare prices within minutes thanks to the Internet. Businesses do the same thing on trying to get the best prices. Stardock also has their own release and support platform, instead of relying on Steam or others.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.


Since software production is not the same as physical good production, this can be applied to the many hats discussion by Brad - They were trying to do things with what they had and in the end, they've got things more sorted out for better production. Though this did not decrease costs, it increased them, but the lesson was learned.

6. Institute training on the job.


This is obvious to any company nowadays. Even when you come out of college you have to be familiarized with the company and policies, as well as their specific engines and ways of doing things.

7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.


On the charts Brad has posted, you can see he has a basic leadership structure - Leads for each sub category (Art, etc.) as well as the project lead (Which is typically him, but can also be someone else directly under him as he is the owner)

8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.


I don't think Stardock suffers any fear of anything outside of zombie uprisings.

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.


Research, Design, Sales, and Production are pretty much one big department in software development, split into teams.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.


Not really applicable to Stardock. Patches fix things, and nothing is perfect. Budgeting is even allocated to allow for constant patching after releases, so the games and programs can remain profitable while continuing to improve them.

11. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.


>.> Factory?

Seriously though, they have goals, and objectives, but there are no quotas or numeric goals. Just the thought of making customers happy and making a profit. It's more of a service industry in this regard.

12. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.


Again, not a factory setting.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.


Well, certifications and continuing education on software development is a necessity in such a company, so I assume each person is maintaining a high level of continuing understanding.

14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.


This is reliant upon the fact that the company is in need of the preceeding points of transformation, which it is not.

According to Deming application of these points will transform style of management. Unfortunately, some deadly diseases stand in the way of transformation. Thus, in Chapter 3, he identifies seven deadly diseases that cause the decline of American industry:


1. Lack of constancy of purpose to plan product and service that will have a market and keep the company in business, and provide jobs.


So one of the diseases is not following one of the points, which is already being followed by Stardock minus the provide jobs thing. Jobs are not the purpose of Stardock. Making great games is the purpose of Stardock.

2. Emphasis on short-term profits.


Stardock has its plans laid out for the long term, and has been around long enough that I'm sure they're not reliant on short term profits.

3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review.


No idea why performance reviews are a bad thing. If someone's doing badly, letting them know what they've messed up is a good thing, right? If they continue, they obviously didn't take it to heart and should go. If they fix things, you get a better employee for it.

4. Mobility of management, job hopping.


Stardock has no voluntary turnover, so not an issue.

5. Management by use only of visible figures, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable.


Brad is actively involved in the company, and everything runs out of the one building. Everyone is active and even the public can access Brad via forums as a public figurehead of the company.

6. Excessive medical costs.


... What? So if someone slips when setting up anti-zombie barricades and takes a shotgun blast or hatchett chop, Stardock shouldn't pay for it?

[quote]7. Excessive costs of liability, swelled by lawyers that work on contigency fees.

I'm sure Stardock has a few legal advisors that they pay when needed, but they don't keep anyone on staff from what I've been told. (I mean, Brad routinely tells forum trolls to go die in a fire. I think if they did have a legal department they don't anymore. But I'm sure they don't because that would mean voluntary turnover, so I'm sure it never existed in the first place)

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February 21, 2011 4:33:39 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

The TQM philosophy is suited to manufacturing companies. Quite how it has such relevance for a software company which produces one product (for the games division) every couple of years I've no idea!

 

In a similar vein, I'd like to suggest stardock considers implementing a Just-In-Time system. This has been shown to greatly reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve the speed with which a company operates, and would make invaluable reading for Brad.

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February 21, 2011 6:54:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would like to suggest that Stardock implements a strict Ice Cream Mondays policy. Recently collected data (n=1) suggests that employee satisfaction increases by 15% when eating chocolate ice cream on Mondays.

Just no vanilla. I hate vanilla!

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February 21, 2011 8:09:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting LightofAbraxas,
I would like to suggest that Stardock implements a strict Ice Cream Mondays policy. Recently collected data (n=1) suggests that employee satisfaction increases by 15% when eating chocolate ice cream on Mondays.

Just no vanilla. I hate vanilla!

 

Brad doesn't care about his employees! Didn't you see where he cut the heat to the pool room to save money? No way he'll go for Ice Cream Mondays.

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February 21, 2011 11:35:37 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Tydorius,

However, with the release of Elemental it seems Stardock is beginning to transition from a small firm, that can be easily managed from the top-down by a single individual, to a much larger bureaucracy.

How so? The company is small and housed out of a single building, and it is privately run. Brad even showed us a standard chart for each development team, and the teams have only necessary pieces, and sometimes those pieces are in multiple places (Wearing many hats, as it were).

The company is small now, but it is expanding and getting larger. It wont be small forever I can assure you that.

Quoting Tydorius,
The key question though, is how do decentralize management while still ensuring the company is known for quality and can still attract the love and adoration of its customers that it was able to as a small enterprise.


No. No no no. In a software company, decentralizing management is terrible. It's why we end up with games like Civ V - Pleasing too many people (i.e. shareholders, publishers, corporate management from all directions) because of a non centralized management. When you're in software, the fewer people you have to deal with to get to the top, the better.

Yes. Yes yes yes. Stardock has decentralized management look at their "about us" page:

Brad Wardell - President/CEO
Angela Marshall - VP of Operations
Kris Kwilas - VP of Technology
Jeff Bargmann - Chief Technology Architect
Phil Madis - Director of Business Development
Kirk Windisch - Director of Software Development 

It would be absolutely insane to think that Brad Wardell could manage everything. No small or mid-size firm could exist without delegating management responsibilities.

Quoting Tydorius,

As it is right now I love your work, your company, the products and services you and your employees are able to produce and I eagerly await the next thing you guys come up with.  In the mean time I'll remain hopeful that as your firm becomes larger and expands that you don't go the way of <insert 99% of all American firms here>.

If you like the company, why do you think it's transitioning in a negative way?

My concern is with the botched release of Elemental.  I have to ask is this a sign of things to come? How is the company being managed?  Does all responsibility fall on Brad Wardell? Is the success of the company and the quality of its products dependent on a single man? If the answer is yes, its not a good design principle for a company that is getting larger and expanding every day.  If at the end of the day quality of every product must be managed by a single individual then its a recipe for more and more products being released of progressively lower quality.  I would be very sad to see Stardock, a company that I have come to see as having a heart and soul all its own, head down that direction.

On the other hand, if the company is looked at as a system, and that system is engineered so it can be self correcting when defects or statistically significant variations in quality occur then I wouldn't be too concerned.  The system is no longer solely dependent on a single individual, it is dependent on its internal design.  TQM is one such management framework that paves the way for a constantly self correcting system that leads to progressively higher levels of Total Quality.  It simply not good enough for a CEO to take responsibility for a bad product and make sure it gets fixed.  I'm not saying its a bad thing, it is definitely good when a CEO takes this kind of initiative.  However, my point is that the ultimate responsibility for quality shouldn't be on the CEO directly, but on the system itself.  The CEO should lead management, but not have to micromanage quality.  Lets say Elemental gets fixed up nice and neat. Then going forward is there an inquiry to how and why it was released with such low quality? Does anything get built into the system itself to ensure it doesn't happen again?  If the system isn't designed to be self correcting then its just a matter of time before the exact same mistake is made again.  If that is the case then I'm concerned for Stardock going forward. Brad Wardell is an incredible CEO, as far as I can tell, but he isn't superman.  Some tools that can help address these challenges are quality circles or specifically Deming's PDSA cycle.

On the other hand if Brad Wardell is familiar with management designs that create a constantly self improving system with some degree of independence from top level management then I'm not too concerned.  As it is right now, I don't know.  Stardock is privately held and as such they don't release 10-ks so I can understand how the business is run.  If Brad Wardell hasn't implemented management principles such as TQM or those that have the same net effect as TQM I would propose that he look into it while the firm is still small, because the longer its put off the more it will cost down the road.  If such management design is never implemented then eventually (assuming that Stardock continues to grow and expand) it could very easily become just another large shoddy software firm, and I would be quite sad if that ever happened.

Edit: Since everyone who has responded to this thread so far only thinks that TQM can be applied to manufacturing processes then I would suggest that you at the very least go to your local library and skim, even just briefly the first two chapters of Out of the Crisis. You'll see very quickly that it can be easily adapted to just any industry. Yes, it has already been adapted to the software industry. Again, it provides a framework for constantly improving processes on a scientific basis in a firm. It doesn't matter if your manufacturing cell phones, running a hotel chain, or designing software.  At its heart TQM is a platform for reducing waste, creating more efficient and constantly improving processes, and constant improvement for quality in all aspects of the firm, not just the end product.  As an example Toyota adopted TQM and over time evolved their own business model called "The Toyota Way." Stardock, likewise, would evolve their own business model from using TQM as a foundation. It would not look anything like Toyota's model, though. Stardock would end up with a "Stardock Way," so to speak, which would be specific to the software industry, not manufacturing.

Since no one has bothered to read it I'll post it again, but here is a link for an article regarding TQM in the software development process.

Here is a blogpost on TQM in software development.

Here's a chapter from a book titles, "Managing a Software Development Organization with a TQM Approach for Balance ina  Period of Rapid Growth"

Here is the abstract: Software organizations rely on quality models designed for their specific purposes, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) being the most prominent model to follow. However, in striving for both product and process quality in their activities, small and medium sized enterprises with a limited legacy of organizational culture and tradition in quality work, may profit from quality frameworks following the Total Quality Management (TQM) principles. The ISO quality standards (the 9000 series) provide such principles. A further framework suggested by the European Forum for Quality Management (EFQM) also gives a set of principles to follow. In a case study, we investigate how the principles of the EFQM model can be translated into practical use in a relatively young but rapidly growing software company. We suggest a “double bladed” quality tool to be used by small and medium sized software organizations: supporting the managerial work with TQM principles derived from the EFQM, together with process improvement efforts following the CMMI model.

Also I would just like to say that I am amazed, either intentionally, or by happy accident that many of the principles of TQM are already followed by Stardock, which is why I thought it might provide some appeal.

However, I am not certain if Stardock adheres to some principles which I believe to be very important for constantly improving quality. Maybe Stardock already follows them, maybe they don't I dont know. The following is extracted from the first article above:

Quality must be built into the product.  Quality cannot be an afterthought.  It must be constantly measured and quantified.  The question: “Is this good quality?” must be a centerpiece in any development project.  It must be a concern from beginning to end.  Quality is not determined by picking the best of the bunch after production and recycling the bad ones.  “Bad ones” should never exist in a TQM environment.  Defects should be discovered before any production occurs.  This is accomplished by building quality into the product.  It is easiest to understand this concept by thinking about quality as a part of a product.  The product cannot work without the quality component installed.  Therefore, during every stage of the development process, the developer must ask himself: “Have I installed the quality component in this product?

In this regards just think of "product" as software, algorithm, code, function, object, library, etc. Think of a defect as a bug.

TQM accomplishment involves continual training.   Continuous improvement includes the improvement of one's ability in performing one's job.  An employee must be trained in TQM principles and in the tools and techniques for implementing TQM.  Such training credential should be treated as an accomplishment for performance evaluation

Here, what I think is essential is that each employee must be trained in the system for continual process improvement that the software firm has developed. If an employee notices that a process can be improved and improve overall Total Quality then the change can be integrated into the process and the process is redesigned. Basically, every employee plays a role in the design, development, and evolution of business processes through constant feedback between employees and management. In this way management does not decide the processes to be followed, rather it is defined through constant cyclical feedback within the system itself.

Long-term emphasis on measurable processes and productivity improvement.  TQM cannot be implemented overnight.  It is a long-term process that takes years to implement.  It is a complete cultural change in the organization to focus on continuous improvement.  The problem with achieving continuous improvement is that it requires measures to be compared against.  Therefore, a key element of the TQM culture is qualified metrics–measurements taken continuously in order to chart progress

This relates to the last point, but what is important to note here is that continuous improvement must be objective, it must be scientific. You cannot simply say X seems like a good idea so lets implement it in our design process.  Instead you must say X may address Y, lets test it and if it leads to a more effective process/higher quality then we will implement it on a larger scale.

Understand the current process before improvement begins.   We must understand how things work in the organization to be able to improve it.  Understanding how it works involves being able to measure the process in order to compare “improvements” against it

Again the emphasis is on objective and scientific evaluations of any given process.

Cross-functional orientation and teamwork.  The essence of cross-functional teams is to integrate many different parts of the organization into the development process.  For instance, programmers must involve users from finance, accounting, marketing, and other departments in the development of a software product.  This philosophy is developed with the thought that developing a product is not just the designer's concern.  Everyone who is involved with the development, distribution, and maintenance of a product should have a say in the development of the product

The emphasis here is that every single department in the software firm must communicate and work together.

Effective use of statistical methods and quality control tools.  Statistical quality control and process control techniques should be used to identify special causes of variation that are points outside the control limits.  Actions should be taken to remove these special causes.  Moreover, any abrupt shifts or distinct trends within limits are also signals for investigation.  Quality control tools such as the Quality Seven (Q7) tools and the Management Seven (M7) tools [Brassard, 1989; Imai, 1986; Ishikawa, 1976] may be used to plan for actions, collect valuable data, and chart for progress.  Table 1 lists the names of these tools and their descriptions while Figures 1 and 2 display their formats.  The Q7 tools are used to analyze historical data for solving a particular problem.  Most problems occurring in production-related areas fall into this category.  One the other hand, not all data needed for decision making are readily available and many problems call for collaborative decision among different functional areas.  Under these situations, the M7 tools (also called the New Seven tools [Imai, 1986] are useful in areas such as product quality improvement, cost reduction, new-product development, and policy deployment, etc.

Here just replace "production process" with "design and development process"  The emphasis is once again on using empirical data and the scientific method to improve processes.  When there is no clear data set to analyze statistically Quality Circles / Deming's PDSA Cycle can be important tools to process and organizational improvement.

Constant process, product, and service improvement.   A culture of constant improvement must be developed for TQM to succeed.  All employees should be empowered with the ability to influence an organizational process that helps to improve quality.  Once given this authority, employees must show their desire and commitment to constantly improve the company.  They must be always looking for ways to improve not only their part of the organization, but also the organization as a whole.  Management must foster this culture through proper reward and recognition.

The key emphasis here is worker empowerment to help foster an environment where all the above points can effectively take root. From what I can tell Stardock, already seems to employ such empowerment strategies with those employees who are part of the development process.  However this principle shouldn't exclude other departments including but not limited to accounting and marketing, for example.  So here were not just looking at the quality of the end-product, but Total Quality in the entire operational structure of the entire firm.

Eliminate communication barriers. Under TQM culture,there should be no communication barriers between workers and management, and between functional areas.The management must make themselves available to and easily accessible by theworkers. Employee suggestion program could be implemented in order to eliminate communication barriers.

An important principle, which Stardock may already succeed at, but this is a key piece that makes the feedback cycle for continuous and constant improvement work.

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February 22, 2011 10:06:11 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Heavenfall,

Vandetta534, reading your posts it is difficult to get a grasp of the book because you appear "sold" on it. We understand that you perceive it as helpful, but - in your opinion - what is not so great with the book? What is missed or skimmed over? You told us what you think is good about it - now tell us what you think is bad about it.

I should address this comment. The largest issue I have with the book is that it is written specifically for manufacturing industries.  However, most of what Deming addressed can be adapted to other industries as well.  Its better to read Out of the Crisis as a framework for management and business structure, however, the reader will have to analyze what can and should be applied to their industry - or current state and size of their business.

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February 22, 2011 10:36:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I can see where you're coming from now, and I could certainly understand that principles such as you've described could help transition Stardock to a larger company/bureaucracy (even though in layman's terms "bureaucracy" has a very negative connotation ).

What do people from Stardock think of the ideas raised in this thread?  Brad, what do you think?

Best regards,
Steven.

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February 22, 2011 10:58:51 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting StevenAus,
I can see where you're coming from now, and I could certainly understand that principles such as you've described could help transition Stardock to a larger company/bureaucracy (even though in layman's terms "bureaucracy" has a very negative connotation ).

What do people from Stardock think of the ideas raised in this thread?  Brad, what do you think?

Best regards,
Steven.

Thats actually a really good point you raise about the word "bureaucracy," my intention when using it was just to refer to any organization that has a common goal and needs to be managed.

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February 22, 2011 11:44:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

However, I do have some concerns going forward. I think it might be easy to manage a small firm and ensure good quality products.  However, with the release of Elemental it seems Stardock is beginning to transition from a small firm, that can be easily managed from the top-down by a single individual, to a much larger bureaucracy.

 

I don't think that is what's happening.  I think Stardock was a one-man show--Brad--who worked crazy hard, and he had a few people supporting him.  But Brad was still the brain-child of everything.  He put out some successful products, based on his novel he was working on, and realized his work pace was unsustainable.  He's got his millions, he's got a family, and oh, what is that bright round thing in the sky that rises every day?   So now the transition is to delegate a lot of the work and the creative authority to others.  Okay, so Stardock isn't quite as successful as it once was--it's his company, and his life.  They need to adjust, so Stardock is still successful enough.  And Brad gets his life.

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February 22, 2011 11:51:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

Irrelevant for a software company.

 

"Eliminate the QA team by not coding bugs into the software in the first place."   Um...yeah.... How's that working out?

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