High Performance: Taking a page from Netflix’s book

November 14, 2017 -  By

I recently came across something I believe to be a game-changer, or at least an interesting perspective with which to challenge traditional thinking about organizational culture. Before I spill the beans, let me begin by providing some context to my statement about this being a game-changer.

In my work as a business coach and management consultant, I’m constantly being asked to help companies create processes, increase accountability and enhance results. The assumption is that more top-down, command-and-control processes will result in better performance. This assumption is reinforced by many well-read business books and business gurus. So, I get it. But what if I told you that performance may improve with fewer processes, fewer rules and less top-down control?

Take a look at the work culture statement of one of today’s most successful companies, Netflix. Also, I recommend reading this Harvard Business Review article, which includes a link to a video of a presentation describing the work culture at Netflix.

What I find most interesting about this concept is the focus on hiring talented people and getting out of their way. Instead of trying to control every aspect of their work day, do just the opposite. Allow them to decide how to best accomplish their work and simply measure the results. The philosophy is simple: people over process. Hire great people, leave them alone, and let them produce. It’s the polar opposite of trying to create an entirely process-driven company.

I also love the focus on teamwork. Netflix does not put up with what they call “great jerks.” Many companies tolerate “great jerks” because they produce and they fear not being able to replace them. Of course, the “great jerks” know this and are emboldened to be even greater jerks—the classic “tail wagging the dog” syndrome.

Another feature that resonates with me is the statement that “good is the enemy of great” and how this relates to what they call the “keeper test.” If employees are not worth the effort to fight for, in the event that they announce their resignations, then they fail the test. If this is the case, the manager is advised to find a better person in that role—one who he or she would fight for if they ever left the company. Replace the “B” players with “A” players. “A” players are worth fighting to keep; “B” players are not.

Now, I understand you may not believe that what Netflix does has any relevance to your business. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside of your industry. What good ideas can you glean from this case study? Is a “people-over-process” approach best or is the opposite approach better? Do you tolerate “great jerks” because you need them? How often do you settle for “B” players? What else can you learn from the Netflix example?

Your culture is a result of your decisions and actions. It exists in its present form because you allowed it. If you would like to change your culture, what are you going to do differently going forward?

Now go forth.

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About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

1 Comment on "High Performance: Taking a page from Netflix’s book"

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  1. I now totally understood the concept of Netflix and also their concept of hiring professionals. Giving the leisure to professionals to do work in their manner is a good concept that every company should adopt to.