For Impact


A Culture of Freedom & Responsibility (MUST READ)

For Impact Ideas | | Tom Suddes

This is not a short post! It’s not 140 characters to be tweeted nor is it designed for ADHD, fast-twitch consumption.

Encouragement.  Hopefully, I and we have built some trust within our ‘Tribe’.  If so, what follows could be one of the most thought-provoking pieces you’ve read in a long time.If you are a For Impact Leader, Chief Whatever, Executive Director, Member of the Senior Team, Vice President/Team Leader of the Advancement/Development Office, or an aspiring Social Entrepreneur … I truly believe this is a must read.

This month’s HBR talked about a “A Great Place To Work”.  Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and now a consultant, wrote How Netflix Reinvented HR.  FWIW, I think that is a terrible name for this powerful article on culture, talent, counter-intuitive/radical practices and more.  Take the time to read the article.  Patty and Reed Hastings, the Founder and CEO of Netflix, shared two over-arching principles:

  1. “Hire only ‘A’ Players.  Excellent colleagues trump everything else.”
  2. “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package.”  As they say, this blunt statement underscores their hunger for excellence.

They then shared their five tenets for a true culture of freedom and responsibility:

  1. “Hire, reward and tolerate only fully formed adults.”  (If this were your ‘only’ hiring practice … it would change the game.)
  2. “Tell the truth about performance.”  (They eliminated all formal reviews!  “Too ritualistic and too infrequent.”  Their alternative:  “Have conversations about performance as an organic part of their work!”)
  3. “Managers own the job of creating great teams.”  (Netflix told all their ‘managers’ that building a great team was their most important task!  They were not measured on whether excellent coaches or mentors or got their paperwork done on time.  “Great teams accomplish great work, and recruiting the right team was the top priority.”)
  4. “Leaders own the job of creating the company culture.”  (Read Patty’s example about action not matching values.)
  5. “Good talent managers think like business people and innovators first and like HR people last.”  (For me, “business people and innovators” could be summarized as ENTREPRENEURS.  Think like an Entrepreneur makes for a truly astounding, creative and and innovative culture.)

Pay attention!  What follows has been called one of the most important documents ever to come out of Silicon Valley.  It’s been viewed more than 5 million times on the web!

*Even with all the reading that Nick and I do, somehow we missed this.  It has had a huge IMPACT on our little company … and I am confident that you will find some real gems and nuggets within these 127 slides titled Reference Guide on Our (Netflix) FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY CULTURE.

Here are things that jumped out/literally leaped off the page for me:

  • The real company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go.
  • A great workplace is stunning colleagues.
  • The Keeper Test:  Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?
  • Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it, to continue to attract and nourish innovative people.  (Check out the Complexity/Performance charts!)
  • Netflix policy for expensing, entertainment, gifts and travel:  “Act in Netflix best interest.”  (5 words long!)
  • CONTEXT … NOT CONTROL.  (This is a truly exceptional nugget that could change your entire organization.)
  • Highly aligned, loosely coupled (vs. a tightly coupled monolith or independent silos) is dependent upon high-performance people and good context.  Goal is to be big and fast and flexible.

If that’s not enough to get you to download the ‘slides’, you probably won’t get it anyway.

***One of their 9 behaviors and skills is IMPACT! These are the VALUES that drive hiring and talent:


In their world, IMPACT means:

  • You accomplish amazing amount of important work.
  • You demonstrate consistently strong performance so colleagues can rely upon you.
  • You focus on great results rather than on process
  • You exhibit bias-to-action and avoid analysis paralysis.

WHEW!  I urge you to print out everything and take some solo time to digest and think.  Then, get your Senior Team or colleagues together and see if you can’t take some of the above and create an amazing CULTURE OF FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY.