Culture – Netflix Style

Netflix is one of those companies that started up relatively recently and re-invented itself to survive.  It realized that DVDs were not going to be the dominant delivery mechanism for entertainment delivery and added streaming services to its lineup.

The rest, as they say, is history.

When you’ve got a company that has grown so rapidly, around the world (190 countries and counting), the culture of the organization is given a good hard shake.  How do you create a culture that spans the extreme technologists that are necessary to support supporting thousands of devices and the media acquistion people whose job is to provide new content?

Netflix has an interesting culture in that everything is open.  They’ve described their culture in a SlideShare presentation, on their website and just about anywhere that you want to look. For Netflix, it comes down to specific values that they want to foster.

  • Judgement
  • Communication
  • Curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Selflessness
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Impact

They even go so far as to provide examples for each of the values.  For instance, under Innovation is the comment “You keep us nimble by minimizing complexity and finding time to simplify.

Culture, to Netflix, is integral to their success and it has always been that way.  They are a relatively small organization (3500 employees) but they have big dreams, common goals that to which everyone in the organization can subscribe.  Even their policy on expenses leans in favour of the individual:

Our policy for travel, entertainment, gifts, and other expenses is 5 words long: “Act in Netflix’s Best Interest.” We also avoid the compliance departments that most companies have to enforce their policies.

This is an organization that trusts its employees to do the right thing. Instead of enforcement groups, the company relies on people adhering to the company culture and for peer pressure to help people make the right decision.  Their core philosophy is simple, yet perfectly in tune with how they behave.

People over Process

Too often companies try to enforce behaviours or make people do something that does not intuitively fit within the culture.  If you need to force someone to do something there are two questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Is this the right person for the organization?
  2. Is this the right culture for the organization?

You may surprise yourself with the answers.

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