Universal ideas learned from Netflix culture (draft)

Different book authors tend to have different ideas about how things should be done and it's perfectly normal (no one-size-fits-all thing). Hence it's really nice to read some "universal idea" (similar to what we read and agreed or already worked on). I recently read a book about culture at Netflix and below are those "universal ideas" to me

  1. Every single employee should understand the business. Openly and constantly share the challenges, problems the company/team is facing with team members

    • Believe that others can understand "the big picture". If they don't, it might be the problem with your explanation (try to make it simpler)
    • Understand the problem will encourage them to proactively give you solution
  2. Radical honesty

    • Give feedback face to face. It should be about the behavior, not their personality (because someone making a mistake doesn't mean he or she is a bad person)
    • Leaders need to do the hard thing. Some feedback is hard to give, but it will eventually be good for that person and especially for the rest of the team
    • Be a model (acknowledge when you're wrong so that people understand that radical honesty is welcomed at your team)
    • Get feedback from your subordinates is very important, because you're not always going to be right, and the satisfaction of being right can be very dangerous
  3. Debate vigorously

    • The question needs to be asked genuinely
    • Listenting with an open mind to fact-based arguments we didn't agree with
    • Data is great, but don't consider it the answer but just the basis of good questions. Decision making should be data informed rather than data driven
    • Do not use data as an accountability shield. Beware of data masquerading as fact.
    • Debate only for the sake of business and customers (this will help to reduce personal attach or side-track discussion)
    • Debate in smaller group with mixed functions and experiences to avoid only listening to "the experts". They're too aware/focus of the constraints. Someone with fresh eyes can sometimes find their way around constraints, almost out of ignorance (similar to diversity in P&G)
  4. Build the team for future

    • Don't let hiring becomes a number games (e.g. avoid we want to double the team size not for any clear goal)
    • We got to hire now the team we want for the future
    • We tend to focus on what the current team is achieving and how much more they can do. Ask "Are we limited by the team we have not being the team we should have ?"
    • It's important for everyone to understand that the company will constantly evolving like a sport team, not a family.
    • Do not promote strong performers into management roles if they are simply not good or interested in managing
  5. Hiring

    • Great colleagues, tough challenges (again, and it needs to be articulated clearly by the manager like in point 1) to tackle and the knowing that the customer loves the product or service is the strongest draws to working at a company
    • That doesn't mean the base shouldn't be improved (e.g. office perks still need to be there, just that it's not the ultimate goal in making the company attractive)
    • Hiring manager should understand really deeply what the company's approach to hiring is and how to execute on it, down to every detail. They should realize it's among their most important job and they're accountable for it (not just them doing HR a favor). This should be modelled from the top-down
    • HR people is business focus and being engaged deeply in the company activities (able to learn more and hence explain things more interesting to candidates, business focus means a mindset to "close the deal"). They need to know they are the business's partner
    • The goal is for every candidate who came in for an interview to walk away wanting the job, even if he's not qualified (because his colleagues might be)
    • Knowing when it's time for people to move on goes hand in hand with bringing in top performers.
  6. Let go

    • We don't just need brilliant people. We need brilliant and motivated (want to lead the team to do their job) people.
    • Sports team analogy help people to understand that coaches are letting the rest of the team and the fans down if they don't replace players who aren't producing top performances
    • Have performance review not just annual but more frequent (more 1:1 session). People should hear frequently about how well (or not) they're performaing. This will give them more chance to improve (and in return good business value for the company as well)
    • Engage people from other team to give feedback on your team members (different perspectives)
    • Let people know how their performance is being perceived by their teammates and other colleauges is invaluable in allowing them to gain critical perspective (need to make sure the reviewer feedbacks base on performance, not popularity or friendli-ness)
    • If a person can't do a job, it's more of the company fault (in particular the hiring process) than theirs
    • Tell them they're not a good match. It's not personal and it's not failure
    • The commitment to achievement is what we want to foster, not the expectation that as long as you're working hard, the company will have your back
    • Let-go people shouldn't carry with them the stigma of being "fired"
    • Have more great team builders and the practice will be spread organically (scale yourself as well)

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Jamie Larson