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Netflix Culture

I’m constantly scouring the landscape for companies with cultures that stand apart from the herd (moooo!). Via my e-friend Byron Davies’ discovery, I’ve just added another gem to my list: Netflix. Here’s the link that triggered the addition: Netflix Culture. It’s a simple, unadorned (content over format), behemoth 128 page presentation, but it’s so authentically different and norm-busting that it’ll stir your emotions (yuk, can’t have emotions in business, right?) if you’re a culture hound like me. Just in case you’re curious, but short on time, here are some zingers that rang my bell:

  • The real company values, as opposed to the nice sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.
  • We particularly value these nine skills and behaviors: judgment, communication, impact, curiosity, innovation, courage, passion, honesty, selflessness.
  • You focus on results and not process.
  • You challenge prevailing assumptions when warranted, and suggest better approaches.
  • You say what you think, even if it’s controversial.
  • You question actions inconsistent with our values.
  • You only say things about fellow employees you will say to their face.
  • You share information openly and proactively.
  • It’s about effectiveness, not effort or hard work.
  • Responsible people thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom.
  • Most companies curtail freedom as they grow bigger and to avoid errors, thus, we try to increase freedom.
  • Process-focus drives talent to leave.
  • The key to managing growth and complexity is to increase talent density; not to institute more freedom-constraining processes.
  • We value simplicity, not the simplistic.
  • Freedom is not absolute, a few basic and common sense rules are needed.
  • In environments that demand creativity, fixing errors is cheaper than (fruitlessly) trying to prevent them via religious process adherence.
  • Regularly scheduled strategy and context meetings.
  • Flexibility is more important than efficiency in the long term.
  • Set the context for your people instead of trying to control them.
  • Highly aligned and loosely coupled as opposed to monolithic or siloed.
  • Goal: fast, flexible AND big.
  • Titles are not very helpful (all major league pitchers aren’t major league talents).
  • No centrally administered “raise pools” every year.
  • Whether Netflix is prospering or floundering, we pay at the top of the market.
  • It’s a healthy idea, not a traitorous one, to understand what other firms would pay you, by interviewing and talking to peers at other companies.
  • No bonuses, just include in salary. No free stock options – just big salary; and let people decide where to invest it.
  • Rapid innovation AND excellent execution, creativity AND discipline, are required for continuous growth.

Here is my number one zinger:

  1. Netflix vacation and tracking policy: there is no vacation policy or tracking.

You read it right. One day, an employee pointed out that “we don’t track hours worked per day, night, or on weekends, so why do we track vacation days?“. The Netflix leadership responded to the challenge by removing the “N days per year” vacation rule. Pretty rad, removing rules instead of continuously piling them on, no?

Even if you’re extremely skeptical and can’t believe the Netflix leadership “walks the talk”, you gotta at least give them credit for writing down, in detail and with underlying rationale, the culture that they’re trying to build – so that they could be held accountable. No?

The Herd

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