Netflix: An inside look at the culture of performance and killer instinct

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Netflix is not your typical company. After all, these are the scrappy guys, at merely 12 years old, that took down the venerable bricks-and-mortar Blockbuster empire—without breaking much of a sweat.

That was just an appetizer. Netflix wants to take on anyone that gets in the way of you and downloadable, streamable content: movies, TV shows, concerts, and other digital bits beamed into your living room.

A rather telling internal presentation (actually, a “reference guide”) by the CEO has been making the rounds lately, and I finally had a chance to flip through it (skip to the bottom of this post to see the embedded version). The presentation is all about culture, and one that’s quite unique.

When I worked at Cisco Systems over a decade ago, culture was a big deal. John Chambers could deliver the pixy dust with aplomb. It was not uncommon to float on cloud 9 after one of his charismatic, trademark employee rallies.

slide-deck-netflix-quoteI’ve never seen Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, present before, but from what I’ve heard his vision and approach to corporate culture set him and ultimately the company apart.

After reading these slides I can see why BlockBuster didn’t have a chance. It’s not in their DNA. Innovation, competitiveness, teamwork. It all needs to be hardwired for a company to not only survive, but to dominate. And that’s exactly what Netflix is doing.

A couple of things jumped out at me about this presentation:

  • there is a refreshing absence of clip art—none in fact, hallelujah! (and this is markedly different than Cisco’s uber glossy PPTs)
  • it’s clear that the business is run as a “pro sports team”, not as a family or “kid’s recreational team”
  • top  performers get top rewards
  • vacation time is not tracked; the idea that intelligent employees that perform well will know what’s appropriate and still get the job done (it’s part of fostering “employee freedom”)
  • Netflix does not tolerate “brilliant jerks”, the cost to teamwork is too high
  • competitor’s take note: “This slide deck is our current best thinking about maximizing our likelihood of continuous success”
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