Startup Culture: 23 Insights From The NetFlix Culture Deck

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Startup Culture: 23 Insights From The NetFlix Culture Deck

 

If you have time to read one document on the topic of startup culture, you should read through the NetFlix “culture deck”.  If you have time for two, read through the NetFlix deck twice — it’s that good.  It is so good, in fact, that I’m surprised when I come across entrepreneurs that haven’t seen the deck yet.  These are people that read all sorts of great material on the web to help their startups. 

So, as a public service, I’m sharing with you the best presentation on startup culture I’ve ever seen (including one we’ve created ourselves at HubSpot — more on that in a future article).


Insights From The NetFlix Startup Culture Presentation

These are just some of the points that jumped out at me.  I’m sure you’ll have your favorite parts too. 

1. Comes right out and says who the “freedoms and responsibilities” applies to.  In their case, salaried employees only.

2. Lots of companies have nice sounding values, but real values are defined by who gets rewarded and who gets let go.

3. You can articulate what you are, and are not trying to do.

4. You can separate what must be done well now, and what can be improved later.

5. You treat people with respect, independent of their status.

6. You accomplish amazing amounts of important work.

7. You focus on great results, rather than process.

8. You have a bias-to-action rather and avoid “analysis paralysis”

9. You create new ideas that prove useful.

10. You find the time to simplify so we can stay nimble.

11. You are quick to admit mistakes.

12. We’re a team, not a family. 

13. A great workplace is stunning colleagues.

14. You behave like an owner of the company.

15. Prevent irrevocable disaster.

16. “There’s no clothing policy at NetFlix, but no one has come work to naked lately.”

17. Act in the company’s best interests.

18. Flexibility is more important than efficiency in the long term.

19. Best managers focus on context rather than control.

20. Titles are not very helpful.

21. Compensation should be about external market value, not internal parity.

22. In some groups, there may not be enough growth opportunity for everyone.

23. Individuals should manage their career paths — not the company.

Which ones do you like?  What did you like that you would have included?  Which parts of the presentation do you disagree with? 

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Apr 19, 2010

COMMENTS

Netflix is a great company to model after. Here's the link to the deck. 
 
http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM by Matt


This one is my favorite : 16. “There’s no clothing policy at NetFlix, but no one has come work to naked lately.” 
 
It does my heart good that one of the founders of my company reads what other companies are doing to improve culture. I LOVE WORKING FOR HUBSPOT!

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 12:02 PM by Jill Fratianne


My favorite: Individuals should manage their career paths — not the company. 
 
By managing your career path, I think you'll naturally end up in the positions that are suitable for your career path. Of course it's not about being selfish, it's about working hard to do the right things and make yourself a valuable resource to the company. As you do that, your career path opens up. 
 
Thanks for sharing.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 12:26 PM by Chris Mower


Thats very true. There are no rules except the ones that work in the favor of the company.  
 
BTW I really liked point 12 - We’re a team, not a family.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM by Himanshu Chanda


Would have been great if glassdoor reviews were positive, but Netflix gets horrible ratings on GlassDoor - so, this culture document is nothing more than a marketing lie.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 12:54 PM by Sam


Great find. Thanks for sharing. More companies should look at this list and learn from it, in addition to focus more on their customers.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 12:55 PM by Pete H


I liked number 12 as well. It is especially hard for a small company to behave in a professional manner... But what if your company includes multiple members of your real family? Watch out!

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:07 PM by Jason


#2 should be observed by my former employer as they let go of the wheat and chose to keep the chaff. In fact, I think they should be given all of these.  
Good!

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:09 PM by DDixon


Some interesting stuff here, but sounds like a company that's still pretty excited that they made the market leader (BB) largely irrelevant. In fact, their 9 values seem like a description of the anti-blockbuster. We'll see how they stick to this when a company comes along that significantly challenges their business.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:10 PM by brad


I don't agree with number 7. The phrase "garbage in, garbage out" applies. If you've ever watched the video on YouTube regarding Netflix operation, you'll see their process is streamlined to the Nth degree to ensure great results. That alone suggest that having focus on the process, continually improving the process, provides consistent and spectacular results. 
 
Netflix on YouTube 
 
In case the link doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWA0LKfEv3c

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:22 PM by Clifford


It's not clear to me how their values are any different from Enron's. Both Enron's values and NetFlix's values sound great on paper. How do we really know if NetFlix applies them in practice?

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:45 PM by Asim Jalis


#2 should be observed by my former employer as they let go of the wheat and chose to keep the chaff. In fact, I think they should be given all of these. 
 
 
 
Here is the problem: How can anyone tell the chaff from the wheat? I am sure your former employer if asked would claim that they kept the wheat and threw out the chaff.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:47 PM by Asim Jalis


@Clifford, "That alone suggest that having focus on the process, continually improving the process, provides consistent and spectacular results." 
 
Unfair. That's like saying a gardener who mows the lawn in an orderly and sensible manner is focusing on process. Competence is not process.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:59 PM by Michael Chui


Couldn't agree more with #7.  
 
The last company I worked for (run on incompetence, chaos and drama) focused to an absurd degree on process. 
 
If you hire talented people who are responsible and great at what they do, the process (with a few tweaks perhaps) takes care of itself. 

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 2:01 PM by Kim


I like #2 - can articulate what you are, not what you are trying to do. This is applicable to all business, especially the small business that is competing with many for their piece of the pie.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 2:06 PM by Janet


Excellent. Comprehensive. Thank you for sharing.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 2:34 PM by raj


I like #7: You focus on great results, rather than process. Process is important but not as important as getting stuff done.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 2:43 PM by Jarie Bolander


Much of this is good. I prefer 'Behave like a leader' rather than an 'owner'. I have known many who own but few who lead. 
 
Also the belief that results can be achieved without good process is flawed. Process is a fundamental part of result. 
 
My company began with a statement on culture which formed the brief for branding and development. However, espoused culture is nothing - it only has meaning if it is a living culture. 
 
Many thanks for the thought inspiration.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 3:28 PM by Jenny Hyatt


I wouldn't say these are insights, more desired outcomes and hopes. 
 
re point number 12. WE are a family, and a team, what's wrong with a family feel to a business. I ran a 40 plus design studio on that principle for a number of years, some of the most successful and happy ones for those employees.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 3:53 PM by derek johnston


Fun post and well worth a read. Not on the list, but when trying to combat the dead hand of the past we apply the following, "Every idea is a good idea until we prove that it is a bad idea."

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 4:23 PM by dave broadwin


While I can appreciate a number of NetFlix values, in particular having a bias to action and keeping things simple, I am a firm believer in leading a team, having a vision and a clear path. Obviously flexibility is an integral part of business, however having clearly defined responsibilities, processes and priorities means everyone is on the same page, understands how they specifically impact the business and ensure heading in the same direction.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 6:48 PM by Larnie


I love the fact that NetFlix thinks of themselves as "professional athletes." That really is the right state of mind and a very powerful state of mind. 
 
SIDENOTE: HubSpot has got to improve their comment system ASAP (or integrate an outside one as soon as possible.)

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 8:00 PM by Kevin Vogelsang


This presentation reminds of a Mckinsey run values workshop i had to sit through in a really large corp with lots of money and little time or  
\content to define & instill real values in their people. Some of the slides are almost the same.  
Has little to do with startup culture - more like large corporate culture.  
Dharmesh your referred content is usually more relevant. 
Cheers 

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 10:19 PM by ns


I think the points #7 and #8 (don't spend time on process and analysis) contradict points #9 and #10 (spend time on new ideas and stay nimble), thus proving that life is more about striking the right balance.

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 10:21 PM by RKThakur


Re. the comment by some anonymous "ns": To build a culture, you have to spend some time and effort. If you don't have time, then Building a Culture is not for you. Also, wouldn't you like a start-up to become a corporation? Have you built one? Then offer your Alternative, if any. Show us how short your Culture statement is, and if it is better or different. 
 
Make sure Your comments are relevant, and why be so coy (Anonymous) if you are so sure?

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 10:51 PM by Raj


Where did you get "Titles are not very helpful" from?  
 
Titles help define people's roles. The statement that a good manager provides context and context includes "clearly-defined roles" suggests that titles are in fact important to Netflix. 
 

posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 11:51 PM by Jeremy


Interesting summaries from the now famous Netflix presentation. What if we had more such summaries in one place? Like The Success Manual?

posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 1:44 AM by Pramit Singh


Great insight and inspirational too! Thanks Dharmesh 
 
Which ones do you like?  
 
I like #4, 5, 16, 20, 23 
 
What did you like that you would have included?  
#9, 10, 18 
 
Which parts of the presentation do you disagree with?  
#15 Pretty difficult to know upfront about disasters and that too if it will be irrevocable. This is even though we may take preventive steps to the best of our knowledge. 

posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 9:40 AM by Lalitha Brahma


Interesting compilation of startup culture. I've seen similar cultural norms in a lot of startups with happy employees.

posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 10:58 AM by VA


Nothing too special. A list of principles like this is easy to come up with on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 
I am not sure why you marketed it so strongly... this is really generic and vague. Waste of time unless you can demonstrate it using real examples of culture.

posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 10:52 PM by arief


My favorite: 20. Titles are not very helpful. 
 
I think titles can get in the way.

posted on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 2:35 AM by Staniel


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