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Netflix, Culture, and Corporate Productivity

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Scott Booher of CIOpedia posted a thoughtful critique about the obsession with procedure at many companies. His surprising inspiration was an internal document leaked from Netflix.

Here’s what Booher had to say on the topic of company policies:

In this model [from Netflix], Process is to be tolerated, and whenever possible, replaced by great performers who know what they are doing and can figure out how to get things done, without arbitrary rules getting in the way (I do not personally know any Netflix employees, so others will need to comment on whether this view of Process is accurate across their organization).

Contrast this model with that found in most IT organizations of any size. Process is not only accepted, it is celebrated. There is a complex process for everything, from the method for getting approval to build a piece of software, to requisitioning a new server, to the detailed accounting for every activity performed during the work day. One might even go further with the observation that in many organizations, processes are stacked over time, one on top of another, with few processes ever being retired.

This phenomenon, unfortunately, is not exclusive to the information technology department. Usually, almost every area of work is governed by a dizzying number of official and unofficial policies, which ultimately stifle innovation and limit progress. At AccelaWork, we have run across companies where it takes weeks for a new employee to be issued a computer and months to receive business cards. Purchases often require multiple signatures no matter how small the amount. These regulations may not be written down anywhere, but if employees feel as though they’re out of control than they effectively have no authority. Process can overwhelm a company until it reaches stagnation.

Although Booher’s comments were fascinating, the source material may have been more relevant to most employees. Check out the Netflix Reference Guide on Freedom & Responsibility Culture (direct link):

shocked about corporate productivity

© Flickr user opensourceway

To many employees at many companies, this document sounds unreal. It suggests, for example, that Netflix aims to increase employee freedom as it grows. Who ever heard of a boss that wants you to spend more of your time doing whatever you want? That sounds like a fantasy, not the reality of work.

AccelaWork will not promise to change your culture into one similar to Netflix. We prefer not to work with the executives who make such slide decks, but rather with the individuals doing the work. We prefer to help you establish a personal culture of productivity and satisfaction so that you can get more done by owning and improving the workflow in your immediate area. That kind of change can helps to transform the larger organization. Thumb through the presentation to get inspired. Call on our consultants to begin the process of making work better.

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