Org charts often flipped in Pangyo Techno Valley

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Org charts often flipped in Pangyo Techno Valley


From left: President Kim Taek-jin of NCSoft becomes bartender for a day at an one-day bar at his company offices and speaks with employees; Han Seong-sook, CEO of Naver, moved her office to the 15th floor so she could be equally accessible to employees above and below her in the 26-floor building. The office is minimally decorated; The employees of Bucketplace pose in front of the company to take a picture. CEO Lee Seung-jae, second from left in front row, is evaluated by six employees, like every other worker at the company. [NCSOFT, NAVER, BUCKETPLACE]

Companies in Pangyo Techno Valley, a complex in Gyeonggi and Korea’s answer to Silicon Valley, are working to make themselves less hierarchical. The efforts are based on the theory that the flatter the organizational chart and the more comfortable the atmosphere, the more creative the environment.

Many companies are trying to reduce bureaucracy and reform their structures, but companies in Pangyo Techno Valley are particularly focused on the issue.

A small bar was opened inside the Pangyo office building of NCSoft, the online game company, in November last year. The name of the bar is “Ask anything you want.” Kim Taek-jin, CEO of NCSoft, was bartender for a day. He poured beer and listened to employees as they said what they couldn’t say so directly in the office.

The bar was part of the NC Developers Party (NCDP 2018), a conference for NCSoft developers. Kim freely shared his ideas with his employees, offered some advice and told of his experiences as a developer over the course of the two-day conference. When employees asked for a selfie with Kim, he gladly joined them and took a picture.

“Rather than an employer, he was like a senior developer as well as a brother living next door,” one employee said.

Kim transforms into a show host at the quarterly Innovation & Management (I&M) Report event. The event, which started in May 2014, is held to explain how the company manages revenue and expenditures, and addresses any major pending issues.

Originally, it was reserved for senior management, but from October 2016, employees at other levels began to participate. That was Kim’s idea.

The event is carried live on the internet, and employees can ask questions anonymously. Kim answers them directly. As employees can question their boss without identifying themselves, a wide range of issues were raised and requests made.

In 2017, Kim gave out Nintendo gaming consoles as presents to all employees after one asked anonymously. The gifts cost the company about 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million).

Han Seong-sook, 55, CEO of Naver, changed the location of her office right after taking office in March 2017, moving from the 26th floor to the 15th floor. The idea was to make herself equally accessible to all the workers - above and below - in the building.

Han writes her own speeches rather than relying on a speech writer. She has no personal assistant. A three-person team supports the CEO, doing research and arranging her schedule. Han comes to the office at 9 a.m., but the team members come according to their schedule - no rushing in to be earlier than the chief executive.

At Bucketplace, which runs the “Today House” interior design app, employees evaluate the work performance of Lee Seung-jae, the CEO, president and founder of the company. He is judged by six employees just like all the other employees. His passion for the work and customers, and his sense of responsibility are assessed. Lee only learns his results. The identities of the evaluators are never known to him.

“The employees like the evaluation process because they can point out undesirable aspects and call for improvements in a comfortable setting,” said Bucketplace brand manager Kim Yoon-sun.

“A horizontal culture in an organization elevates the openness, acceptability and tolerance toward newness,” said Jung Kwang-ho, a professor at Seoul National University and vice president of the Society of Open Innovation. “Creativity is hard to realize in Korea, where hierarchy is deeply rooted in the culture. So in that sense, the efforts of Pangyo Techno Valley companies are truly encouraging.”

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