How to fire your boss, according to Wooga's Adam Telfer

GDC Europe sees some unusual advice

How to fire your boss, according to Wooga's Adam Telfer

"Dear everyone. Effectively immediately: no matter what, teams can work on whatever they want. Any product they want. Using any technology they want. Management cannot stop you".

This is the email that Wooga's Adam Telfer wants you to send to everyone at your company. Though, he won't be held responsible for the outcome.

At Wooga, the 20 development teams all work independently of each other, and aren't constrained by management.

Product leads, not CEOs, are in charge of pretty much everything: from picking the engine and platform, to choosing the genre, to deciding to cancel the entire game.

Individual value

This company structure came around when big feature decisions made by CEO Jens Begemann helped tank Facebook game Monster World. When Begemann stepped back and gave autonomy to the team, things turned around. The game became a huge success.

After that, the boss vowed to distant himself from such decisions.

Now, his only involvement with development is a monthly review (alongside two thirdparties) with the product lead - but he can only suggest, advise, and offer feedback. No big decisions.

Which leads to things like Telfer's doomed jetpack dinosaur game being in development for three months longer than it should have. Upon its late demise, Begemann said an "autonomous culture is worth way more than three months of lost work", explains Telfer.

So what are the benefits of shutting out the CEO?

For one, teams feel closer to the game and have greater creative control. "There's commitment, confidence, and ultimately improved quality".


The approach also reduces internal politics. When meeting aren't about selling an idea to the CEO, developers don't bend the truth and become salesmen. And CEOs can't force big changes based on their title or pay grade.

Plus, it's easier to adapt to new technology, platforms, and genres. Wooga's Diamond Dash was successful because the team went with match-three on Facebook, even though simulation was more popular.

And Pearl's Peril launched on iPhone to great success, even though the studio heads thought it would never work.

There are challenges, though. As games get cancelled and teams get shuffled, it makes hiring tough.

Each team has different cultures, genres, and tech, and you can't easily hire specialists - Wooga is more likely to hire generalists who can be shifted around between projects.

But Wooga has resource managers in each discipline who ensure people can move between different teams.

But while "really pride ourselves on killing games" says Telfer, killing your own idea is incredibly hard". Can you be objective?

For Wooga, it's important to "make sure failure is seen as acceptable in the corporate culture".


Forget schools and textbooks: anything Mark knows, he's learnt from games. His eclectic knowledge of rock music comes from Guitar Hero and his in-depth repertoire of skating tricks is thanks to Tony Hawk. Just don't ask him to fix your plumbing.