• Jane Fordham

Stranger Things: Powerful People Lessons The Netflix Way

#futureofwork #humanworkplace #innovation #leadership #peoplemanagement

I accept I’m behind the curve in reading ‘Powerful: Building A Culture of Freedom and Responsibility (The Netflix Story, Patty McCord),’ but I’ve just finished it and it’s great and so here are some of the exerts that I found most compelling. I’d never advise any of my clients to cut and paste the practices and principles of another business no matter how successful however, there is plenty of food for thought in this short book to assimilate and inform the way you lead or influence your own empires.

One of the things I liked most about this book is although its written by Netflix’s ex Head of Talent, Patty McCord, this is not an HR book for HR people. It’s a business book and it focusses on an organisation’s most vital assets, its human capital.

Longer than your average blog granted, but I wanted to ensure that each exert had enough context so as to be useful. Enjoy!

· “People have power, don’t take it away: the Netflix leadership team explored a radical new way to manage people that would allow them to exercise their full powers. The goal was that people would challenge the leadership and each other vigorously. Wanting them to speak up about their ideas, and problems, to freely push back. To avoid anyone at any level keeping vital insights and concerns to themselves. The exec team modelled this, made themselves accessible, encouraged questions, engaged in open and intense debate and made it clear to managers to do the same.

· “Engaged employees probably do deliver higher-quality performance but too often engagement is treated as the end-game rather than serving customers and getting results. As for empowerment, I simply hate that word. The idea is well intentioned, but the truth is that there is so much concern about empowering people only because the prevailing way of managing them takes away their power. We didn’t set out to take it away but we’ve over-processed everything. We’ve hamstrung people.”

· “We were so intent that every employee understand our philosophy and the behaviours we wanted them to execute on that Reed (CEO) started writing a PowerPoint about them, which the management team contributed to. It ultimately became known as the Netflix Culture Deck. When it was posted online we had no idea it would do viral but it’s had more than 15 million views and counting.” (Jane – this deck has developed legendary status in leadership circles. Go on, check it out…)

· “Policies and structures can’t anticipate needs and opportunities; we had a striking realisation after a very painful lay-off (2001, a third of the company). The dotcom bubble had burst and we were on the brink of bankruptcy. Then that Christmas the cost of DVD players dropped and they became THE big gift and the business took off. We had to do twice the work with 2/3 of the people and yet everyone was much happier. Why was it so fun? Our big realisation was that the remaining people were the highest performers. The best thing you can do for your current employees is hire only high performers to work alongside them) It’s a perk far better than free sushi or ping pong. Excellent colleagues, a clear purpose, and well-understood deliverables: that’s a powerful combination.”

“The best thing you can do for your current employees is hire only high performers to work alongside them). It’s a perk far better than free sushi or ping pong.”

· “One of my favourite days was when I stood in front of the company and said I’m getting rid of the expenses policies and the travel policy. Use your judgement to decide how you spend the company’s money. If it’s a disaster we’ll go back to the previous system. People didn’t abuse the freedom. We saw that we could treat people like adults and they loved it.”

· “Every single employee should understand the business; what happens when you do away with all that process and policies? What then? Clear continuous communication about the context of the work to be done. Here’s exactly where we are and here’s what we’re trying to accomplish. But ‘only smart people can understand this information. Its MBA stuff’ comes the refrain – Then don’t hire stupid people! Better yet don’t assume those people are stupid, assume instead that they may be doing stupid things because they’re mis-informed or uninformed.”

· “When the whole team was fully aware of the strategy and had had opportunity to debate and help shape it, due to the culture of transparency the whole team then had to take responsibility for whatever followed.”

· “Build the company now for the company you want to be then. Relentlessly focus on the future. Hire the team now that you want to have in the future.”

· “We had a rule of thumb for whether to promote from within or bring in a top performer from outside: did the job to be done require expertise that no one inside had, or was the work in an area that we ourselves were at the forefront of innovating?”

· “At Netflix we had three fundamental tenets to our talent-management philosophy; 1) the responsibility for hiring great people and whether someone should be moved on, rested primarily with managers, 2) for every job, we tried to hire a person who would be a great fit, not just adequate and 3) we would be willing to say goodbye even to very good people if their skills no longer matched the work we needed done.”

“People’s happiness at work is not about gourmet salads or sleep pods. True and abiding happiness in work comes from being deeply engaged in solving a problem with talented people you know are also deeply engaged in solving it, and from knowing that the customer loves

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