Book Notes: Powerful - Creating a Culture of Freedom & Responsibility

April 25, 2018 - 3 minute read -

book cover the book powerful by Patty Mccord

I finished reading “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom & Responsibility” and it was breath of fresh air. It offers a seemingly unconventional perspective towards building an amazing company culture.

I will say that this book is not for the feint of heart; you’ll see why below in some of the quotes from the book. Interestingly, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, stated that Netflix’s culture slide deck (which inspired this book) “ is the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”

Concerning the structure of the book, the broken down into 8 chapters. At the end of each chapter the author provides bullet point summaries of the chapter and a set of questions for you to ponder.

Many people have mixed feelings about Netflix’s culture. Some talk about the culture of fear, while others talk about how amazing it is to in an work environment unlike any other. A friend of mine who works at Netflix put it best when he said this about Netflix’s culture:

Some people can’t handle working in a high performance culture and that’s ok. On the other hand, there are others who thrive in high performance environments, they use it form themselves into diamonds, they continue looking for challenges to better themselves. You can do that at other companies, but the notch here is higher than at other places.

At any rate, here are some of the main points of the book, which I adapted from the Netflix slide deck:

  • Great workplace is stunning colleagues, not lush benefits.

  • Adequate performance get a generous severance package, with respect.

  • We’re like a pro-sports team. Netflix leaders hire, develop, and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position.

  • Sustained B-Level performance despite “A for effort”, generates a generous severance package with respect.

  • Sustained A-Level performance despite minimal effort is rewarded with more responsibility and pay.

  • Why are we so insistent on high performance? In procedural work, the best are 2x better than average. In creative/inventive work the best are 10x better than average.

  • Responsible People Thrive on Freedom and are Worthy of Freedom

  • For managers, when one of your talented people does something dumb, don’t blame them. Instead ask yourself, what context you failed to set.

  • Interviewing with other companies while working at Netflix is highly encouraged to current employees. Why? Employees should see what the landscape outside of the company is like and always keep themselves abreast of their skills, trends and their own value proposition. (Note: the fact Netflix openly states this raises my respect for them 1000x because Netflix know it’s value & knows that no one is indispensable.)

  • Be highly aligned with other teams (same foundational goals), but loosely coupled (execution may be different).

  • The type of employees Netflix values AKA the rare responsible person:

    • Self-motivating
    • Self-aware
    • Self-disciplined
    • Self-Improving
    • Acts like a leader
    • Doesn’t wait to be told what to do
    • Pick ups the trash lying on the floor