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Freedom & Responsibility
Culture
(Version 1)
This is archive of 1st
Edition
2nd
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Reference Guide on our
Freedom & Responsibility
Culture
These slides are meant for reading,
rather than presenting
2
Freedom & Responsibility
Applies to our
Salaried Employees
Our hourly employees are important,
but have more structured jo...
Culture: what gives Netflix
the best chance of
continuous success
for many generations
of technology and people?
4
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
Lots of companies have
nice sounding
value statements
6
Enron Had A Nice-Sounding
Value Statement with 4 Values
• Integrity
• Communication
• Respect
• Excellence
Enron headquart...
The real company values,
as opposed to the
nice-sounding values,
are shown by who gets
rewarded, promoted, or let go
8
Real company values are the
behaviors and skills
that we particularly value
in fellow employees
9
We Particularly Value
in our Colleagues
these Nine Behaviors and Skills…
10
You make wise decisions
(people, technical, business, and
creative) despite ambiguity
You identify root causes, and get
be...
12
Communication
You listen well, instead of
reacting fast, so you can better
understand
You are concise and articulate in...
13
Impact
You accomplish amazing
amounts of important work
You demonstrate consistently
strong performance so
colleagues c...
14
Curiosity
You learn rapidly and eagerly
You seek to understand our
strategy, market, subscribers,
and suppliers
You are...
15
Innovation
You re-conceptualize issues to
discover practical solutions to
hard problems
You challenge prevailing
assump...
16
Courage
You say what you think even if it
is controversial
You make tough decisions
without excessive agonizing
You tak...
17
Passion
You inspire others with your
thirst for excellence
You care intensely about Netflix'
success
You celebrate wins...
18
Honesty
You are known for candor and
directness
You are non-political when you
disagree with others
You only say things...
19
Selflessness
You seek what is best for Netflix,
rather than best for yourself or
your group
You are ego-less when searc...
Judgment
You make wise decisions (people, technical,
business, and creative) despite ambiguity
You identify root causes, a...
“You question actions
inconsistent with our values”
Part of the Courage value
Akin to the honor code pledge:
“I will not l...
Values reinforced in hiring,
in 360 reviews, at comp review, in
exits, and in promotions
22
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
Imagine if every person at Netflix
is someone you
respect and learn from…
24
Great Workplace is
Stunning Colleagues
Great workplace is not day-care, espresso, health
benefits, sushi lunches, nice off...
Like every company,
we try to hire well
26
But, unlike many companies,
we practice “adequate performance
gets a generous severance
package.”
27
We’re a team, not a family
We’re like a pro sports team,
not a kid’s recreational team
Coaches’ job at every level of Netf...
The Keeper Test Managers Use:
“Which of my people,
if they told me
they were leaving in two months
for a similar job at a ...
The Keeper Test Managers Use:
“Which of my people,
if they told me
they were leaving in two months
for a similar job at a ...
Honesty Always
To avoid surprises, you should periodically
ask your manager: “If I told you I were
leaving, how hard would...
Isn’t Loyalty Good?
What About Hard Workers?
What about Brilliant Jerks?
32
Loyalty is Good
• Loyalty is good as a stabilizer
• People who have been stars for us, and hit a bad
patch, get a near ter...
Hard Work – Not Directly Relevant
• It’s about effectiveness – not effort – even
though effectiveness is harder to assess ...
Brilliant Jerks
• Some companies tolerate them
• For us, the cost to teamwork is too high
• Diverse styles are fine – as l...
Why are we so manic on
high performance?
In procedural work, the best are 2x
better than the average.
In creative work, th...
Why are we so manic on
high performance?
Great Workplace is
Stunning Colleagues
37
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
The Rare Responsible Person
• Self motivating
• Self aware
• Self disciplined
• Self improving
• Acts like a leader
• Does...
Responsible People
Thrive on Freedom,
and are Worthy of Freedom
40
Our model is to increase
employee freedom as we grow,
rather than limit it, to continue to
attract and nourish
innovative ...
Most Companies
Curtail Freedom as they get Bigger
Bigger
Employee Freedom
42
Most Companies Curtail Freedom
As They Grow to Avoid Errors
(sounds pretty good to avoid errors)
43
Desire for Bigger Positive Impact
Creates Growth
Growth
44
Growth Increases Complexity
Complexity
45
Growth Shrinks Talent Density
in Most Firms
% High Performance Employees
Complexity
46
Chaos Emerges
% High Performance Employees
Chaos and errors spikes here – business
has become too complex to run
informall...
Process Emerges to Stop the Chaos
Procedures
No one loves process, but
feels good compared to the
pain of chaos
48
Process-focus Drives More Talent Out
% High Performance Employees
49
Strong Near-Term Outcome
• A highly-successful process-driven company
– With leading share in its market
– Minimal thinkin...
Then the Market Shifts…
• Market shifts due to new technology or new
competitors or new business models
• Company is unabl...
Seems Like Three Bad Options
1. Stay creative by staying small
2. Try to avoid rules as you grow, suffer chaos
3. Use proc...
A Fourth Option
• Avoid Chaos as you grow with Ever More High
Performance People – not with Rules
• Then you can continue ...
The Key: Increase Talent Density
faster than Complexity Grows
% High Performance Employees
Business Complexity
54
Increase Talent Density
• Top of market compensation
• Attract hi-value people through
freedom to make impact
• Be demandi...
Minimize Complexity Growth
Business Complexity
• Few big products vs many small ones
• Eliminate distracting complexity (b...
With the Right People,
Instead of a
Culture of Process Adherence,
Culture of
Freedom and Responsibility,
Innovation and Se...
Is Freedom Absolute?
Are all rules & processes bad?
58
Freedom is not absolute.
Like “free speech”
there are some
limited exceptions to
“freedom at work”
59
Two Types of Necessary Rules
1. Prevent irrevocable disaster
– E.g. Financials produced are wrong
– E.g. Hackers steal our...
Mostly, Though, Rapid Recovery is
the Right Model
• Just fix problems quickly
– High performers make very few errors
• We’...
“Good” vs “Bad” Processes
• “Good” processes help talented people get more done
– Web site push every two weeks rather tha...
Rule Creep
• “Bad” processes tend to creep in
– Preventing errors just sounds so good
• We try to get rid of rules when we...
Example: Netflix Vacation Policy
and Tracking
Until 2004 we had the standard
model of N days per year
64
Meanwhile…
We’re all working online some nights
and weekends, responding to emails at
odd hours, and taking an afternoon
n...
An employee pointed out…
We don’t track hours worked per day
or per week, so why are we tracking
days of vacation per year...
We realized…
We should focus on what people get done,
not how many hours or days worked. Just
as we don’t have an 9-5 day ...
Netflix Vacation Policy
and Tracking
“there is no policy or tracking”
68
Netflix Vacation Policy
and Tracking
“there is no policy or tracking”
“There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no...
Another Example of Freedom
and Responsibility…
70
Most companies have complex
policies around what you can
expense, how you travel, what gifts
you can accept, etc.
Plus the...
Netflix Policies
for Expensing, Entertainment,
Gifts & Travel:
“Act in Netflix’s Best Interests”
(5 words long)
72
“Act in Netflix’s Best Interests”
Generally Means…
1. Expense only what you would otherwise not
spend, and is worthwhile f...
Freedom and Responsibility
• Many people say one can’t do it at scale
• But since going public in 2002, which is
tradition...
Summary of
Freedom & Responsibility:
As We Grow, Minimize Rules.
Inhibit Chaos with Ever More
High Performance People.
Fle...
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
"If you want to build a ship, don't
drum up the people to gather wood,
divide the work, and give orders.
Instead, teach th...
The best managers figure out how
to get great outcomes by setting the
appropriate context, rather than by
trying to contro...
Context, not Control
Context
• Strategy
• Metrics
• Assumptions
• Objectives
• Clearly-defined roles
• Knowledge of the st...
Exceptions
• Control can be important in emergency
– No time to take long-term capacity-building view
• Control can be imp...
Managers: When one of your
talented people
does something dumb,
don’t blame them.
Instead,
ask yourself what context
you f...
Managers: When you are tempted
to “control” your people, ask
yourself what context you could set
instead
Are you articulat...
Good Context
• Link to company/functional goals
• Relative priority (how important/how time sensitive)
– Critical (needs t...
Why Managing Through
Context?
High performance people will do
better work if they understand the
context
84
Investing in Context
This is why we do new employee
college, and why we are so open
internally about strategies and result...
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
Three Models of Corporate Teamwork
1. Tightly-Coupled Monolith
2. Independent Silos
3. Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled
87
Tightly-Coupled Monolith
• Senior management reviews and approves
nearly all tactics
• Lots of x-departmental buy-in meeti...
Independent Silos
• Each group executes on their objectives with
little coordination
• Work that requires coordination suf...
The Netflix Choice
1. Tightly-Coupled Monolith
2. Independent Silos
3. Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled
90
Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled
• Highly Aligned
– Strategy and goals are clear, specific, broadly understood
– Team inter...
Highly-Aligned Loosely-Coupled
teamwork effectiveness
is dependent on
high performance people
and good context
Goal is to ...
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
Pay Top of Market is Core to
High Performance Culture
One outstanding employee gets more done
and costs less than two adeq...
Three Tests for Top of Market
for a Person
1. What could person get elsewhere?
2. What would we pay for replacement?
3. Wh...
Takes Great Judgment
• Goal is to keep each employee at top of
market for that person
– Pay them more than anyone else lik...
Titles Not Very Helpful
• Lots of people have the title “Major League
Pitcher” but they are not all equally effective
• Si...
Annual Comp Review
• Hiring is market-based at many firms, but at
Netflix we also make the annual comp review
market-based...
No Fixed Budgets
• There are no centrally administered “raise
pools” each year
• Instead, each manager aligns their people...
Annual Comp Review
• Some people will move up in comp very
quickly because their value in the marketplace
is moving up qui...
Compensation Not Dependent
on Netflix Success
• Whether Netflix is prospering or floundering,
we pay at the top of the mar...
Bad Ideas
• Manager sets pay at Nth percentile of title-
linked compensation data
– The “Major League Pitcher” problem
• M...
When Top of Market Comp
Done Right...
• Nearly all ex-employees will take a step down
in comp for their next job
• We will...
Versus Traditional Model
• Traditional model is good prior year earns a
raise, independent of market
– Problem is employee...
Employee Success
• It’s pretty ingrained in our society that the size of
one’s raise is the indicator of how well one did
...
Good For Each Employee to
Understand Their Market Value
• It a healthy idea, not a traitorous idea, to
understand what oth...
Efficiency
• Big salary is the most efficient form of comp
– Most motivating for any given expense level
– No bonuses – ju...
Optional Options
• Employees can request to trade salary for stock
options, if they wish
• The options are fully vested, g...
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• High Performance
• Values are what we Value
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
In some time periods, in some
groups, there will be lots of
opportunity and growth at Netflix
Some people, through both lu...
Baseball Analogy: Minors to
Majors
• Very talented people usually get to move up, but
only true for the very talented
• So...
Netflix Doesn’t Have to be for Life
• In some times, in some groups, there may not
be enough growth opportunity for everyo...
Two Necessary Conditions
for Promotion
• Job has to be big enough
– We might have an incredible manager of something,
but ...
Timing
• If manager would promote employee to keep
them if employee were thinking of leaving,
manager should promote now, ...
Development
• We develop people by giving them the
opportunity to develop themselves, by
surrounding them with stunning co...
Development
• Formalized development is rarely effective,
and we don’t try to do it
– E.g. Courses, mentor assignment, rot...
Individuals should manage their own
career paths, and not rely on a
corporation for planning their
careers
Like retirement...
Individual’s economic security is
based upon their
skills and reputation
We try hard to consistently provide
opportunity t...
Seven Aspects of our Culture
• Values are what we Value
• High Performance
• Freedom & Responsibility
• Context, not Contr...
Why is culture important?
What is our culture trying to
support?
120
Culture is How a Firm Operates
What practices give Netflix the best
chance of continuous success for many
generations of t...
Continuous Success =
Continuous growth in revenue,
profits & reputation
122
Need a culture that supports
rapid innovation and
excellent execution
123
Need a culture that supports
rapid innovation and
excellent execution
124
Both are required for
continuous growth
There is...
Need a culture that supports
effective teamwork of
high-performance
people
125
Need a culture that supports
effective teamwork of
high-performance
people
126
High performance people and effective teamw...
Need a culture that avoids the
rigidity, politics, mediocrity, and
complacency that infects most
organizations as they gro...
This slide deck is our current best
thinking about maximizing our
likelihood of continuous success
128
Our culture is a work in progress
Every year we try to refine our
culture further as we learn more
129
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Culture: what gives Netflix
the best chance of
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of technology and people?
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