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How to Build a High-Performing Culture Like Netflix Does

Netflix organizational culture mapped using the Culture Design Canvas

By Gustavo Razzetti

November 26, 2019

Mapping Netflix’s updated organizational culture deck

Netflix’s culture deck has been viewed almost 20 million times since it was first published as a slide presentation in 2009.

Drafted by Patty McCord, Netflix’s former Chief Talent Officer, the famous document and philosophy is now known as “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility.” 

This Culture Design Canvas is a representation of Netflix’s manifesto, updated in 2017.

Check out the sources at the end of this post.

The Core of Netflix’s Updated Culture Deck

The center of the Culture Design Canvas represents an organization’s direction, defined by the:

  • Organizational purpose
  • Corporate values
  • Strategic priorities
  • Behaviors that the organization rewards or punishes

Netflix’s purpose is: “We want to entertain the world. If we succeed, there is more laughter, more empathy, and more joy.”

The company has a total of 10 values that are extensively described in its culture manifesto. The updated version emphasizes inclusion and integrity -–Netflix wants to separate itself from the Silicon Valley playground.

That’s clearly manifested in the behaviors that Netflix punishes; there’s zero tolerance for “brilliant jerks,” employee harassment, or using confidential information for inside trading.

The company rewards Dream Teams (sustained ‘A’ performance and rapid recovery from mistakes). Freedom and responsibility continue to be the guiding principles.

In terms of priorities, the company emphasizes freedom and sustained performance:

Freedom and responsibility even over control.

People even over having rules.

Star players even over adequate performers.

Performance even over effort.

Netflix Culture Design Canvas: The Emotional Culture

Netflix promotes Psychological Safety and ongoing feedback by encouraging people to be selfless, help others, and considering “silent disagreement” as unacceptable.

Disagreement is encouraged, it must happen openly, and things must be said employees’ faces (not behind their backs).

Regular, candid feedback is encouraged even if it might feel uncomfortable. Questions like “What could I be doing better?” or “What feedback have I not yet shared?” promotes people to learn and help each other grow.

In terms of rituals, Netflix promotes a “Pick up the trash” mentality. If you see that something isn’t working or is broken, fix it. Don’t expect someone else to “pick up the trash,” as happens in most companies.

Netflix also offers “adequate performers” a generous severance package. This ritual ensures that the company only has Dream Teams.

Netflix Culture Design Canvas: The Functional Culture

When a company has a clear, powerful culture, there’s no need for too many rules. That’s precisely Netflix’s case. That being said, it does have some guiding principles to encourage people to make the right decisions based on the “freedom and responsibility” principle.

“Act in Netflix’s best interest” or “Take vacation” are simple, open rules that show that the company treats its employees like grown-ups. Rather than telling them what to do (or not), Netflix gives people the freedom to “do what’s best for Netflix,” depending on the context.

Netflix’s competitive and high-performing culture has effective scheduled meetings. There’s no room for wasting time: meetings start and end on time and are meant to get things done.

The notion of freedom and responsibility also applies to decision-making. Managers’ roles are to provide context, not to decide – unless an employee is unsure about what’s the right call.

When it comes to more complex, significant decisions, there’s a responsible captain of the ship who makes a judgment call after sharing and digesting others’ views.

Netflix avoids committees or majority votes. Once the impact of a decision becomes clearer, the team reflects on the outcome and how they can make better calls next time.

Netflix’s culture is one of the best examples of an organization that trusts its employees to drive the organization forward. With freedom comes responsibility; what about your workplace culture?

You Might Also Like

The Culture Design Canvas
11 Companies with Powerful Cultures
Spotify Culture Design Canvas
Zappos Culture Design Canvas
What Is Workplace Culture? Why You Should Care?

Sources used for Netflix’s culture design canvas

Netflix Culture Updated Version
Netflix Culture Deck
Netflix’s Culture Is Not for Everybody  
The Woman Behind Netflix’s Culture Deck
Inside Design: Netflix
Culture Shock: Masters of Scale
Netflix Ageless Company Culture Secrets
Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility (book)
Why Culture Design?

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