Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility
Startup Codex

The 125 slides of Netflix are considered by many as the reference in expressing the culture of a startup.

The document, published in 2009, was written by Patty McCord, the Chief Talent Officer at the time, and Reed Hastings. More than 10 years ago, it was particularly ahead of its time and made an impact among human resources managers in technology companies.

A corporate culture like Netflix's was obviously not for everyone. One of the company's objectives in publishing this document was to simplify its recruitment process and give itself more chances to receive the right candidates.

If you haven't read it yet, this document is well worth your time.

If I have to retain only four slides:

  • Slide 7: "Actual company values [...] are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go."

My first startup allowed me to understand this after several years. The company culture only exists and develops through the behavior and values of the people who work there. They become the extension of the founders.

  • Slide 35 - "Hard Work - Not Relevant"

Work must be measured in quality, not quantity.

This can only be possible if employees are well aligned with common and individual goals. Context is key here (see the following slide).

If in a one-on-one interview with a manager an employee says that she deserves a raise or a promotion because she works a lot and very hard, you may have a problem.

  • Slide 81 - "The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control the people".

A sentence that sums up modern management well, the essence of which I totally share.

An employee has the means to express her talent when she fully understands what is expected of her and how her work fits into the larger picture. The context ranges from strategy to individual objectives. With clarity on how to measure success.

  • Slide 93 - "Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled".

Perhaps the most difficult balance to achieve as a startup grows. Being able to move away from a classic top down model and allow a very large dilution of decision making within teams.

This flexibility is essential for a company that wants to keep innovation in its core values, and a high level of adaptability in the face of market surprises.

It is also an essential factor in retaining talents and having more successful employees.

The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are show by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go.