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Sean K Reynolds on working at Paizo (and other companies)


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ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
Erik Mona is getting a lot of flack here, not saying he does not deserve some it but it seems to me to be a case where the issues start at the very top.
 


ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
I'd always had the impression Lisa Stevens was a great boss, but that dalek voice thing seems like a parody of evil bosses.
I had no prior opinion on her in any fashion but as you say the Dalek voice thing is parody levels, as is giving flack to the designers for the rules allowing broken power build but preventing anything to be done about it. Though I thought that allowing broken power builds was a core feature of 3.x/Pathfinder :D
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
They don't even need that. Just something basic, like leadership fundamentals, or strengthfinders, or any two hour long seminar on effective leadership fundamentals. Kaizen or 6 Sigma, or similar is way down the road for these folks. They need the basics first.

Well, those fundamentals don't do much if they don't have motivation to follow them, which we have established that they probably don't. Some primers are called for to give them an understanding of why they need to change. That's why I mention using the story of the Toyota Way - a concrete example of building one of the most robust companies on the planet. Embedded in that is the concept of continuous improvement. I wouldn't start with methods before getting buy-in on the basic idea that there's a long road of constant changes ahead to reach success.
 



Dire Bare

Legend
SKR has posted on his blog about his experiences while working at Paizo and other companies. There is another thread about the Wired article mentioned, but this is more detailed about the specifics of his experiences. An interesting, if sad, reading, IMHO.
Sad indeed. Sours me on Paizo, a company I've really liked in the past.

They certainly put out good products, but at what human cost? Hopefully the new union can help improve the company's work culture, but the rot seems to be pervasive at the top.

I'm especially disappointed in Erik Mona. He, like SKR, started in the trenches with WotC and worked his way up. His editorials always made him seem a very personable and nice guy. And I suppose, if you don't work under him, maybe he is.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Isnt a huge part of the problem that there are literally hundreds of rpg 'writers' lined up to take Sean's job for less money?
[All other perceived management issues aside]
I think that's perception more than reality.

Are there thousands of gamers who would love to work for a gaming company like Paizo? Sure. But are there hundreds of QUALITY writers just waiting for their chance, willing to work for pennies? Eh, I'm not so sure.

That's the common wisdom, however. And perception sometimes makes reality, or folks base their actions and decisions on perception.
 

mserabian

Explorer
Well, those fundamentals don't do much if they don't have motivation to follow them, which we have established that they probably don't. Some primers are called for to give them an understanding of why they need to change. That's why I mention using the story of the Toyota Way - a concrete example of building one of the most robust companies on the planet. Embedded in that is the concept of continuous improvement. I wouldn't start with methods before getting buy-in on the basic idea that there's a long road of constant changes ahead to reach success.
Yeah I mean I worked at a very large bank for 30 years, who implemented numerous of these techniques. Lean 6, 6 Sigma, and many others over the years. They spent countless millions on consultants to get these programs going. But as they were run at my bank (and I'm sure many other places) they simply came down to "do more with less" (which translates to work more hours for no pay) - which they seem to have well in hand at Paizo!

Not saying these methods can't be effective and good, but the top and all the levels of management below need to understand them and really believe in them to make it work. and I'm pretty sure from various descriptions of the environment at Paizo that's never going to happen.
 

Isnt a huge part of the problem that there are literally hundreds of rpg 'writers' lined up to take Sean's job for less money?
[All other perceived management issues aside]
I think that's perception more than reality.

Are there thousands of gamers who would love to work for a gaming company like Paizo? Sure. But are there hundreds of QUALITY writers just waiting for their chance, willing to work for pennies? Eh, I'm not so sure.

That's the common wisdom, however. And perception sometimes makes reality, or folks base their actions and decisions on perception.

It is a consistent threat made, though, not just in the TTRPG industry but also the Video Games industry. I want to say that it came up in the previous allegations as well.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Yeah I mean I worked at a very large bank for 30 years, who implemented numerous of these techniques. Lean 6, 6 Sigma, and many others over the years. They spent countless millions on consultants to get these programs going. But as they were run at my bank (and I'm sure many other places) they simply came down to "do more with less" (which translates to work more hours for no pay) - which they seem to have well in hand at Paizo!

Not saying these methods can't be effective and good, but the top and all the levels of management below need to understand them and really believe in them to make it work. and I'm pretty sure from various descriptions of the environment at Paizo that's never going to happen.
Ugh. I deal with something similar in public education (in the US). Some new amazing reform that's going to just make everything run smoothly . . . . if management took the time to understand and implement it properly, that is. Seems fairly universal. :(
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm especially disappointed in Erik Mona. He, like SKR, started in the trenches with WotC and worked his way up. His editorials always made him seem a very personable and nice guy. And I suppose, if you don't work under him, maybe he is.
You can be a "nice guy" and a terrible manager. Given some of the creepier things that have come out of employee revelations, though, "nice guy" is unfortunately questionable.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Are there thousands of gamers who would love to work for a gaming company like Paizo? Sure. But are there hundreds of QUALITY writers just waiting for their chance, willing to work for pennies? Eh, I'm not so sure.
I can't comment on their quality (which I'm sure varies), but RPG writing is often treated as a non-professional secondary hobby job for beer money.
 

mserabian

Explorer
I'm especially disappointed in Erik Mona. He, like SKR, started in the trenches with WotC and worked his way up. His editorials always made him seem a very personable and nice guy. And I suppose, if you don't work under him, maybe he is.
well as I understand it Paizo's really a very small company and there's Erik, one other guy and the owners (Lisa and Vic) at the top. So Erik's in a position where, if the owners don't want to respond to the issues, he has no say. He's just got to regurgitate their crap to the staff (or quit). And when you're in that position of "I can take this to the owner and get spanked or just shut it down myself" well ... self preservation often wins out (no matter how nice a guy you are)...
 


mserabian

Explorer
The leadership team is currently Jeff Alvarez (president), Lisa Stevens, David Reuland, Erik Mona, Mike Webb, and Jim Butler. The staff count is about 60 people.
Thanks for the info!

and while there are more than 2 execs at the company, it's still a small family owned company. and in those companies its the owners who generally make all decisions that in any way effect the bottom line. and so I'm just saying that really Erik (it seems to me) has basically no say. He can quit or deliver the message of the owners, or not take the complaints to the owners cause he knows they're just going to jump on him and say no anyway.

To me that doesn't make him a bad guy, just one who is more concerned about his own job and paycheck than his employees.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Don't forget that Paizo has a significant amount of contractors; they went on strike when the union was forming, which likely contributed to its success.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Yeah I mean I worked at a very large bank for 30 years, who implemented numerous of these techniques. Lean 6, 6 Sigma, and many others over the years. They spent countless millions on consultants to get these programs going. But as they were run at my bank (and I'm sure many other places) they simply came down to "do more with less" (which translates to work more hours for no pay) - which they seem to have well in hand at Paizo!

So, you touch on one of the problems with using consultants for this kind of thing - they are transactional. Their mandate is to train and set up a system, and then they leave, and are not further accountable for the results.

Actually hiring project and program managers who know what they are doing as permanent employees gives you people with skin in the game of making things work long term.

Not saying these methods can't be effective and good, but the top and all the levels of management below need to understand them and really believe in them to make it work.

You can make some small gains without full support, but you don't get far without at least some upper-level support.

and I'm pretty sure from various descriptions of the environment at Paizo that's never going to happen.

Probably not. However, they are in an odd position of being a small company that is very dependent on the opinion of the customers, and I think it has been demonstrated that they are in a very bad PR position. Folks in this very thread talk about how their enthusiasm for the products is dropping because of their behavior.

So, maybe the light of day can help sanitize them? We can hope.
 

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