By editor on January 28, 2018 — 1 min read

I’ve always equated what I call alignment to a tree. Alignment in a company is like rings of a tree. So if you cut down a huge redwood, what you notice is there’s many thousands of rings, and that pretty much embodies how a company works, which is we’re at the center. You have the founders and the core 100 or 200 zealots and they are 100% aligned. When you think about that original group at Google, what a master class of technical, just I mean — Unbelievable. Facebook, same situation. Unbelievable.

But then as you hire more and more people, you basically have less and less aligned people. Then that thousandth ring, which is your 75,000th employee, they’re at best 10% or 20% aligned. What that speaks to is the fact that you just have really a very difficult way of having operational control over values and culture at scale. That’s really what it speaks to.

And so, you start things. For example, the 20 percent time, what’s probably for Georges Harik, who, if anybody knows, is an absolute genius. He is a superstar of superstars.

It probably was like where Georges was like, “You know, one day a week I’m gonna code this other thing,” that also changed the world for Google. But, by the 75,000th employee, 20% time is kinda like, “Oh, you know, I’m gonna write memos. I’m gonna build …”

So I think there’s a decay that just naturally happens in organizations, and it just takes a very special kind of discipline and focus to want to fix it. And I think that’s what it really speaks to in the Valley, which is that at the end of the day once these businesses become commercial enterprises, they’re like every other business. They effectively do decay, which is what causes them to eventually be decayed. (38:50)

Posted in: Leadership

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.