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Narumi's Adventures
The Adventures of Narumi Misuhara
Gaia Management Strata
Hello everyone. I wanted to take a few minutes to explain a bit about how Gaia “upper management” works. I’m seeing a few posts in the forums regarding the issue and the trend I’m noticing is a lack of knowledge on exactly what some of the roles are and their responsibilities. First I would like to speak a bit about what the role of a CEO is. In reading many posts from Gaian’s it is clear to me that many do not understand what exactly a CEO is supposed to be doing. A CEO’s responsibility is to the business, it is not to be directly interacting with the “consumers.” His task is to make sure the company is operating viably and remains solvent. He handles negotiations with outside parties that help ensure and secure the companies future. He handles company policies, internal office moral, etc. The CEO reports to, and acts as the company liaison to, the Board of Directors It’s actually pretty unusual to have a company CEO directly interacting with the end consumer. The CEO is not the one who makes day-to-day product decisions, nor is he supposed to be. He handles the above and sets the general company direction. If he is getting involved at the product level, then someone isn’t properly doing their job. He ensures there is a company there in existence. I’ve seen many people talking about how the CEO is “hiding” from Gaian’s. That’s not accurate as that implies he’s supposed to be interacting with the end consumer, but that is not his responsibility. Does that mean he can’t come on of his own volition to interact with you guys? Of course not. I’m just saying that the fact that he hasn’t been interacting much at all shouldn’t be a big revelation, or a sign that he doesn’t care, it’s normal.

Just to give you guys some reality on what the management structure for a company like ours is, let me “break it down” for you ...Hammer Time... sorry, couldn’t resist... razz

At the very tippy tippy top, we have the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), whose responsibilities I listed above. Reporting to him are people like the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Human Resources (HR) and Finance Departments. In some companies other outlier roles may also report to the CEO. HR and Finance are pretty self explanatory so I’ll move on to the COO. The COO is, as the name suggests, in charge of the operations of the company. (please see COO Wiki for further details.) The short of it is, the COO works with the CEO to set various targets for each of the products. These targets vary from monetary goals, to acquisition and retention goals. Those targets are then passed on to the Producer to be planned out and executed on. Beneath the producer you have the department directors and beneath them you have team leads.

Some people are of the viewpoint that management is hiding behind “puppets” and avoiding you, that however, couldn't be further from the truth. For those of you who have been wishing management was seeing their ideas, and wondering how they could get their feedback to management ...Well for better or worse, it has been. Gaia management has not only been seeing your feedback, your ideas, your views, your outrage when it occurs. Management has been in there, on the “front lines”, interacting with you guys for quite a while now. One of the members of senior management is posting in the forums daily. Another is always reading feedback. Heck even Gaia Online’s highest executive is on the forums daily, and even posts periodically! The point I want to get across is that management is there and management is listening. You won’t always like the decisions they make, and they won’t always make the decisions you want made. But rest assured, at least the way things are now, management is listening.

So there’s your personal tour of how the upper management strata at many game like companies works. Obviously there’s a lot more that each of these levels of management does, but for the sake of brevity I covered the key points to address what I was seeing in the forums.

Until next time...
Narumi Misuhara

User Comments: [14] [add]
Erogenous Jones
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 02:56pm
Thanks for this Narumi.
Please always keep in mind that a lot of Gaians are pretty darned young and inexperienced when it comes to the structure of business and "the way of the world" and that is going to be reflected in how they feel about things and what they Post.
IMO, one of Gaia's most endearing trait's is the engagement of the people behind the scenes, because in my considerable experience, it is indeed rare and reflects not only their passion for what they create, but for those they create it for.
I have to say that I haven't always understood some of Gaia's decisions or been happy with them myself, but I have never felt that those decisions were made with anything but the best of intentions for the site and we who use it.

Simply put, you guys are pretty rare and special people, and those of us who recognise that appreciate it more than you could ever know. heart

commentCommented on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 03:41pm
I thought this would have been pretty self-explanatory by now considering that the staff for the site are usually pretty transparent about what they do, especially with the amount of interaction that goes on with the staff and the members of the site even with some of the higher echelons of management speaking with the community. Heck one of the old CEOs you all had WOULD make journal and forum posts from time to time, which I thought was normal for how the site is. I may not always agreed with everything that has been done with the site, but it could be far worse compared to some other companies and the fact that you all do try to listen to us is a plus all around. I do wish people would be alittle less uncouth when it comes to matters like this regarding the site.

Community Member
Dlen Isolde
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 07:22pm
Erogenous Jones took the words right out of my mouth. Ditto to all of it.

I've worked for a couple of different companies. And for the most part even we on the lower rungs of the ladder rarely see upper management except on regular visits throughout the year. In one company, 2 or three times a year, the Owner and CEO would come in on visits himself. Interacting with all of us. Very approachable by us minions. What's more he was roaming in the store, Most customers all unaware he was there. Checking on us, listening to us, talking to us and to customers.

Upper management has to make sure the company wheels are moving along smoothly. That progress is being made. That critical situations are being dealt with. Yet, they are kept informed of the needs and views of those in the company and especially of the consumer. After all if the consumers needs are not met, the company would go out of business for lack there of.

Gaia's upper management must be doing something right. Because they've kept the consumers (us Gaians) coming back for 10 years.

Yes, you've had growing pains made of few oopsies now and then. And, with the huge populace like Gaia has, you will step on toes and/or not please everyone all the time or plainly confound and confuse some. But you've pleased most of us.

Thank you for a wonderful place to hang out. Thank you for the wonder workers you've had who have taken care of us. There have always been people like you Narumi, codemonkey, the much missed Panagrammic to name a few among many, who have been clearly interacting with us, having an open dialogue to work out issues and listening to our needs.

commentCommented on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 08:50pm
I think a lot of the issue is a matter of expectations. I think a lot of Gaians don't just want upper-management to listen, they want to b able to talk and interact with them like regular users. They want upper-management to be a part of the community, to be Gaians as well.

Community Member
Ziro Officer
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 @ 09:07pm

I especially agree with Erogenous Jones, Makoto_Gin, and Dlen Isolde, as I myself have worked for a few companies, and seen how the executives function. As an employee (and as a freelance contractor), I've interacted directly with CEOs and VPs (vice-presidents) of various departments, many of whom often report directly to the CEO.

The executives have to make the tough, and sometimes unpopular decisions on behalf of making sure that the business if producing and making a profit. Like the above posters, I may not always agree with those decisions, but they are for the benefit of the company as a whole. They have tough, and important tasks (which is why they also make the most bucks).

I think it's great that they lurk or post occasionally (I guess I must miss them most of the time). And of course, we have things like "Ask The Admin"m which is cool, too (while I read some of the posts there, I can never come up with anything relevant to ask, that has not already been asked. I would just drop by just to say 'hi', and not have any questions, but I don't want that to come off as spam or something. sweatdrop )

Thanks, Narumi Misuhara, for "breaking it down" for some of the Gaians out there.

As you were, soldiers.
* salutes * stare

- Ziro out.

commentCommented on: Sun Jul 14, 2013 @ 12:55am
I'm going to try and get more people to subscribe to your journal for sure. Thank you for your clear explanatory of this. I only hope more people who are 'clueless' will read this!

Platonic Purple Panda
Community Member
Daffodil the Destroyer
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sun Jul 14, 2013 @ 01:01am
Thanks for the post, Narumi! I've got to admit, I don't come from any kind of business background; it's just never been something I've been involved in or learned in any of the classes I took in high school or college.So this was really informative. Of course, now I can't help but try to figure out which upper staff members you're referring to who are posting in the forums. whee

It would be nice if the new CEO chose to come out and say hi and talk with us now and then, but it's nice to know that just because we don't see him, that doesn't mean that anything is wrong. smile

commentCommented on: Sun Jul 14, 2013 @ 01:30am
The CEOS, Gaia, or whoever is supposed to be listening to and interacting with Gaia never had the stones to so much as inform the Heralds of Chaos forum that the game isn't going to be developed anymore and everyone working on it had been involuntarily terminated or saw their termination coming and quit ahead of time.

So you have a game in "Beta" mode without any official announcement or anything in the forum or facebook to inform people that if they were to spend money on the game they do so on a game that isn't going to change, ever, and will possibly disappear in the future, making any expenditure a waste of money. I sure as hell regret spending gaia cash on a game and shortly thereafter finding out that it was all for nothing.

Wow gaia! You sure are vocal and transparent as you rip people off by withholding information that could effect their judgement!

Community Member
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sun Jul 14, 2013 @ 10:24am
Even though it's great that you told us, Narumi, I feel as though this isn't exactly targeting the audience that should be reading this.

A lot of people who make the claims you see are basically kids. They're people who come on here or folks who have gotten used to seeing the staff interact with them. They are people who want the staff to live up to the community you claim this site is, despite your title and obligations.

So in my mind it should be voluntary. It's just that it shows badly when you only give us a new name with nobody to follow that up and introduce himself.

I'm quite sure that a lot of people understand that none of the staff here HAS TO interact with the users. It's just preferred that you do in order to maintain your community status.

Silly right?

Not when you're a user. Your feedback is also very important to us.

When you reply in a thread, we understand more. We even reply to that to engage in more understanding, or we tip because we couldn't have said it better ourselves.

I understand how some things people say are a bit on the "nah, don't bet on it" side of things. Like instances where a user demands the CEO comes out and explain himself, instances where someone wants you guys to divulge your quarterlies or your budgets/projections, or demanding someone gets fired because an item isn't the way they expected it to be...

yeah...we've seen those far-reaching ideals die a quick fiery death. There are some of us users who understand basic business tact, so we let them know that it's just not possible.

I'm not downing you guys at all. I'm just explaining why people expect to see something from the CEO.

commentCommented on: Sat Jul 20, 2013 @ 01:48pm
My big thing about the CEO is that he sets the direction of the site and it'd be nice to know what he sees the direction of this site going. Since he's new, it'd be a good idea to get a sense of what he knows about this community. If i remember correctly, a past CEO was interviewed once or was he just making comments for an article and it shocked the users here. Him giving us a proper introduction of himself would be nice. It could even include silly things like his favorite game etc like how you devs answers those questions in ask the admin. We don't know if we should trust this CEO as a community yet and all these changes like halo rerelease and $100+ items are making people wary. He has time to make at least one journal entry, right? he may not be involved with eevery little decision but he is involved with gaia and it'd be nice to get an idea of who he is.

Also there is a rumor that gaia wants to take down zomg and that's why you let it get so laggy. Will you make a post in the zomg forum regarding these rumors, the state of maintenance/bug fixing and whether zomg has permanently been abandoned? Some of the servers lag even though they were just cycled so is replacing servers something that gaia will do one day or are they gonna get so old that it makes it unplayable? gaia does have a habit of taking away features for various reasons (including that it's glitchy to fix) and it'd be nice to know that it won't disappear one day even if it'll never get another update.

Sweet Angel Mary
Community Member
Community Member
commentCommented on: Sat Jul 20, 2013 @ 02:47pm
Thanks for this, it was interesting.

Since all the staff have subtitles of admin or developer or gaia staff. No one knows what exactly you do. For example, I didn't know you were a producer for gaia.

So since no one knew who was making what decisions, it was easier to just all blame the CEO. But now we know to share the blame lol

I'm glad that there's always someone reading site feedback, because otherwise what is even the point of that forum?

While it's normal practice for non frontline staff to not have to deal with customers in most businesses, Gaia is different. You've built yourself as a community oriented forum site with dress ups. By being community oriented you've gathered a very dedicated bunch of users which is something you don't get with normal businesses.

Even now there are people buying items because they want to support the site, not because they needed avatar items. I mean, you don't get people going into a department store and buying 100 scarfs because they want to support that brand, that's just stupid, and yet they are doing just that at Gaia.

What I mean is, if you keep ignoring the community part of gaia and just focuses on the dress up aspect and pushing out cash items you'll be losing people of that said community.

One of your research looking into advertising for zOMG found out that it costs about $6-7 in terms of ads to get a new person to join a site. These are just figures that are not obvious when compared to insta success of releasing new cash shop items. But it all matters and it all adds up.

Making more community oriented decisions will help with user retention and keep people referrring new blood via word of the mouth. Right now I wouldn't recommend Gaia to anybody unless I want to lie. Because if I tell the truth I can only say "It's a dress up forum based site that has a few games that all has no updates, and unless you want to spend a substantial amount of time or real money you aren't going to get all the cool looking dress up items, some of which can cost as much as $250." What person in their right mind would want to join that?

commentCommented on: Mon Jul 22, 2013 @ 06:35pm
Thanks Narumi! I love that you wrote this up. It's always been kind of a source of frustration for me that so many people comment on what the CEO should be, could be, is, or isn't doing when they obviously are just unaware how management structure generally works. I mean, it's nothing bad against them because I dont' see what it would be common knowledge for the bulk of Gaia's userbase but it's kind of hard to educate people from this end. @___@

I'm really glad there's a developer journal people can be pointed to so they can get a better idea of what all those shadowy manager types are doing. XD

Community Member
Frozen Mist
Community Member
commentCommented on: Mon Aug 05, 2013 @ 04:40am
Honestly I love the new direction. People are so hung up on the cash element that they don't realize all the benefits coming from it-- how many items its bringing us that we might not have otherwise gotten, or not having to wait an eternity to see our requests come to fruition (since there are so many to choose from). It seems pretty apparent in the Verge recolor request forum that users have so many unfilled ideas still, and this has presented a wonderful opportunity for the company and consumers to work together. Waiting 1 year, or even 6 months, for the summer sales/bfs sucked, because they help to break down barriers that supply issues or, lets face it, gold greed, cause!
Plus people have been asking for direct purchase items for years!! they finally get it and call it a cash grab emotion_facepalm

Best of all, whether you're a paying or nonpaying user, it gives Gaia much more strength to survive. c:

commentCommented on: Fri Feb 07, 2014 @ 01:18am
This entry is rather appreciated.
Having worked in a corporate setting for at least 2 years, and growing up for 5 years in a HR office (I kid you not, I actually used to sleep in a sofa in my mother's office (yes, the set-up is very traditionally corporate, not homely) when our house was affected by a typhoon,) I have an idea on how company operations generally work, although, I can say that most of the user dissatisfaction among those of us who frequent the Site Feedback forum, is probably due to a dissonance between the culture of its specific users, compared to that of the company's thrusts, or even the rest of the userbase.

Back to personal corporate experience, I am fortunate to have been able to directly speak to the CEO, even back as an entry-level intern, with a fairly relaxed atmosphere. This is not to say that there was no professionalism, but the dynamic in our workplace feels so much like a family, where the CEO legitimately listens and acts on not only the concerns of its shareholders and stockholders, but also of its employees, and the end users of its products (this is a company in the pharmaceutical industry, by the way.) This never affected our sales negatively; if anything, after he replaced a CEO who was fairly unethical (and somewhat shady, but let's not go into that) and reserved, employee morale was up, and so was our productivity.

My second workplace also had a CEO who valued communication to a similar extent, if not more -- he would leave the door to his office always open, for any of us to enter and ask him questions. Sometimes, we aren't even there for company matters, but rather, just for a communal lunch break, where we even joke around and tell stories.

I also know of an avatar site whose owner is in direct communication with the userbase -- the staff also directly collaborate with the community, and tickets generally are responded to with an average time of 2 to 3 hours. I think it's possible for Gaia to also do this, without its profit margins suffering. Even having a PRO of sorts, is a right step towards that direction, and I think having someone speak out publicly for the staff would ease up the suspicions and tension that the some of the userbase feel, though I can't speak for them fully.

What I'm saying is, Gaia historically has been a community, and it is natural for people to want to go back to the "glory days". Yes, change is vital to survival, and change will always be met by opposition, but it's important to look into WHY this opposition exists, and what can be done, to come back into equilibrium.

Community Member
User Comments: [14] [add]
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