Building a culture of freedom and responsibility where agile values thrive and flow is a journey of discovery and iteration.
Whenever we start working with an executive team to build an agile organization, we always remark first that they are embracing a journey of unknowns, a journey of unearthing fears and mental limitations beyond their threshold of knowledge, beyond their threshold of control, beyond what they have experienced so far. And we also remark that it requires humility and curiosity to build a path like they have never walked before.
Second, we always reinforce that this is about connecting the hearts and minds of no matter how many 2000, 20000 or 200000 people in the organization to the hearts and minds of their millions of customers represented in meaningful missions and compelling objectives and key results for each of the self-organized teams that will drive the organization to the future.
Third, we make sure this is a journey of radical transparency and Radical Candor where any sign of dishonesty from their side and the organization following, will mean the game over.
Overall, before we start the transformation, we make sure top executives have made and committed to the list of things they are willing to lose:
Over the past two decades, and continuing to this day, the executive team at Netflix has learned as they went iterating their way to a “Freedom-and-Responsibility Culture” by proactively preparing for the road ahead, approaching people management in the way they approached product management:
What is your challenge to overcome? Catalyzing the problem at Netflix played a big part in the invention and evolution of their high performing culture. Among the realizations High-Performance Organizations had over the last decades is:
Netflix, like all high-performing companies, was a growing, changing organism needing excellent collaboration, clear purpose and well understood deliverables by all. Imperative to the triumph of their proactive culture was the ability to say with confidence, “In six months, this is what success is going to look like.”
The former Chief Talent Officer, Patty McCord who was part of the development of this culture is rooted in her recognition that, as the head of talent and people, she needed to shift her own behavior from: “mother and party planner” to: “I had to help everyone else in the company understand the new business model, too.” This shift established the value that “engagement” was not HR’s problem to solve, and an employee’s career success is theirs to achieve, to go out and win every day.
We love how members of Netflix describe that it is not the company’s responsibility to keep a team member engaged and employed (at times they proactively let great people go), rather, it is their responsibility to ensure Netflix is the kind of successful organization whereby anyone coming from the company would be highly sought after and quickly hired.
As it is true in any High-Performance Organization, in Netflix is ingrained the notion that rather than responsibility for the development and engagement of an employee (this is considered an individual responsibility),
As explained, the nature of the business and its challenges kept changing at Netflix, meaning HR’s job was to make sure everyone understood the business.
Is the decision-making system clear? Is it communicated widely? Do team members understand the goal? Netflix has become a place where healthy, fact-based debate is encouraged, and even staged, which has shaped a culture composed of Agile values and principles.
Fluid metrics, a willingness to be wrong at the executive level, and taking a customer view in everything has brought the needed clarity to curtail unnecessarily elaborate efforts and transparently align (or recruit) the right people for the job at hand.
Netflix encourages their people to go out and interview regularly. And they constantly recruit talent. To honor the performance culture, there is a mutual, and expected “openness with which to consider whether or not the future of the company is the one you want to be a part of.”
The Netflix example along with many other High-Performance Organizations like Toyota, Spotify, Slack, Apple and Google all demonstrate that
Simply connecting every employee to the needs and reality of the business unleashes their ability to apply that power toward what they’re already great at: what you hired them to do (what they love to do!). On this realization, the Netflix lessons invite us all to:
The Netflix learnings are rousing for us all. None are immune to complacency creeping in. For this, we are challenged to remember:
And as the title says, never forget that business agility only grows in a culture of freedom and responsibility.