Combating the diseases of large companies, increasing talent density, and improving organizational efficiency are nothing new for ByteDance.
Image source: Byte Faner
【Game-Time special article, no reproduction without authorization!】
Game-Time’s reporting/hosting of “CEO face-to-face” events is an old tradition of ByteDance. Its purpose is to achieve information transparency so that all employees can understand the company’s high-level strategy and achieve a unified effect.
In the past, “CEO face-to-face meetings” often involved senior executives being “tortured” by employees and the outside world. For example, in a face-to-face meeting in August 2022, CEO Liang Rubo, Douyin Chairman Zhang Lidong, Douyin CEO Zhang Nan, and TikTok CEO Zhou Shouzi went out collectively to respond to various problems faced by ByteDance at that time.
But in the latest episode of “CEO Face to Face”, the targets of torture became all members of ByteDance.
On January 30, at the 2024 annual all-member meeting, ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo said that today’s Byte “has all the diseases that a big company should have”, so ByteDance’s key words in 2024 will be “ Always be entrepreneurial and escape the gravity of mediocrity”. Finally, he set three development goals for Bytedance: escaping mediocrity, increasing social trust, and focusing on a few important things.
Considering that ByteDance’s revenue will still grow significantly in 2023, even surpassing Tencent, as the most successful technology giant last year, Liang Rubo regards the current problems faced by Byte as more important than achievements and has good intentions.
If your organization is too mediocre, you won’t be able to attract great talent.
Organizational mediocrity is a hot word mentioned by both Byte and Tencent recently. Tencent President Liu Chiping said at Tencent’s annual meeting that mediocrity is the inertia of organizational development, while Byte Liang Rubo shared the phenomenon of organizational mediocrity he has observed, such as Inefficiency, such as slowness, such as lowering standards.
Liang Rubo said that a simple requirement for a certain internal system attracted a lot of people. It was initially estimated that it would take 1,000 man-days to complete, that is, one person would work for 1,000 days. After digging deeper, he discovered that someone had misunderstood it, and it could actually be completed in 15 man-days. Liang Rubo also gave an example, saying that after an employee left Byte to join a start-up company, he told his original colleagues that he had completed 6 months of work at Byte in one month at the new company.
The problem of inefficiency actually appeared before Liang Rubo took over as CEO. At the CEO face-to-face event at the end of 2020, Zhang Yiming was confused: “I don’t know why many projects now require so many people?”
At that time, ByteDance had more than 100,000 employees.
Liang Rubo emphasized that when he said “organizational inefficiency” he was not criticizing “everyone for not working hard”, but that in a mediocre and inefficient organization, employees would find it difficult to achieve the desired results even if they worked hard, and instead “feel tired more easily.”
Regarding the issue of slowness, Liang Rubo also gave an example. During the company’s semi-annual technology review, it was discovered that ChatGPT was only discussed in 2023, and other large-model startups were established as early as 2018.
Regarding the problem of lowering standards, Liang Rubo also pointed out the lack of focus in internal documents, including “frequently tens of thousands of words”, “slang everywhere”, “infinitely many abbreviations” and so on.
The combination of these problems made Liang Rubo feel that as the company grew larger, its efficiency dropped. Compared with an excellent team, Liang Rubo even believed that ByteDance’s efficiency was 30 to 50% lower.
What makes Liang Rubo sweat the most is that the decline in efficiency means that standards are also declining. For example, “ok” becomes “very good”, “not very good” becomes “ok”, and “very bad” becomes “ok”. Not bad”… So Byte must continue to increase differentiation in incentives and do its best to retain and attract talents. After all, “excellent people will vote with their feet.”
Reflection trumps reward, big companies still want entrepreneurship
In fact, this is not the first time Liang Rubo has reflected on the “big company disease”.
When he became ByteDance CEO in 2021, Liang Rubo, who had already been in charge of human resources for one year and eight months, released videos of his speeches at the “2021 Code Fair Entrepreneurs Annual Meeting” in batches as soon as he took office. , and the theme of the first video is how an organization of 100,000 people maintains vitality.
Zhang Yiming once pointed out that if an organization is not “small but beautiful”, the level of chaos will inevitably increase as the complexity of the organization increases. Liang Rubo believes that if a solution is adopted to increase rules and procedures to ensure an orderly organization, “big business disease” will inevitably breed. Therefore, Liang Rubo’s ideal method is to establish only a basic management system and then implement flexible cultural construction, with managers bearing the pressure rather than employees and the system itself.
Trials over the past few years have shown that there is still a gap between ideals and reality.
In July 2022, Liang Rubo updated his personal OKR and clarified the strategy of “reducing fat and gaining weight”. In the past two years, ByteDance has shrunk in many fields such as education, VR, and games. The layoffs and divestiture of game self-research business have shocked the entire industry. In the past, ByteDance, which has always been “buy, buy, buy”, in 2023 The rare exposure of rumors about the sale of business and game teams shocked the outside world.
In the “CEO Face to Face” at the end of 2022, Liang Rubo also said that ByteDance’s revenue growth has slowed down. Although DAU is rising, it has not reached expectations, so it will continue to “remove fat and gain weight.”
In 2023, ByteDance’s revenue will surpass Tencent’s, but now the main tone of the latest “CEO Face to Face” is not reward based on merit, but self-reflection. According to Game-Time, this is an explanation that ByteDance needs to give its employees to appease people who are in turmoil due to business contraction and to build consensus from top to bottom.
Combating the diseases of large companies, increasing talent density, and improving organizational efficiency are nothing new for ByteDance. What’s important is not just the big company disease itself, but also the “always entrepreneurial” spirit that ByteDance needs to convey to all employees.