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In a cutthroat world, some Web giants thrive by cooperating

An "over-foreman is to smooth out the difficulties which arise between the different types of bosses who in turn directly help the men," Taylor wrote. "If two of these bosses meet with a difficulty which they cannot settle, they send for their respective over-foremen, who are usually able to straighten it out. In case the latter are unable to agree on the remedy, the case is referred by them to the assistant superintendent." A neatly stacked chain of command would lead straight to the CEO, whose ultimate authority and unifying vision could impose order on otherwise chaotic disputes.

Tech start-ups ignored the old-style model. Instead, employees at Facebook, Google and Twitter work in semiautonomous teams, usually made up of experts from each department: design, programming, marketing, etc.

Intimate cooperation between teams, combined with the probability that any colleague could be a future teammate, presents a unique challenge to managers: How are conflicts resolved?

At Facebook, intractable disputes from any corner of the company often go directly to Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. That's right, Time's 2010 Person of the Year is also one of the chief conflict resolvers at his own company.

Jared Morgenstern, a product manager, describes how such a scenario might evolve: "So we disagree on this particular piece of strategy. Let's see what Zuck has to think."

Zuckerberg doesn't arbitrate the conflict. The parties are expected to arrive at their own resolution. Rather, Zuckerberg engages in the conversation and offers his perspective.

And he expects others to offer a perspective, Morgenstern says. The most valued team members "can effectively challenge Zuck and change his mind on things. Those are the people he ends up reaching out to."

Keeping the culture at Twitter

Twitter become a household name almost overnight. In five years, Twitter has gained worldwide popularity - it has 190 million users - and has become a key player in major geopolitical and social events. Its explosive growth has kept founders Isaac "Biz" Stone and Evan Williams preoccupied with the challenge of ensuring that the start-up intimacy isn't lost in a sea of new faces.

"Twitter's growing really quickly, and something that allowed us to do so much with so few people early on was this culture of trust, where you knew people around you were smart and had the best of intentions," Mark Trammell, a user research analyst at Twitter, says, discussing the corporate culture efforts for the first time.

In order to integrate the growing number of strangers into their midsize San Francisco office, Twitter's leaders developed "TeamTeam," a forum for employees to gather around common interests.

Instead of organizing corporate picnics or lining the halls with motivational banners, Trammell spends roughly 10 percent of his time helping his colleagues build personal relationships around "things that people are passionate about."

TeamTeam uses Twitter's own communication platform to build lists of followers where employees with common interests - say, hiking or rock climbing - broadcast smiling photos of past gatherings and announce future events.


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