I believe it was in 2001 that I read Maverick! by Ricardo Semler. As a leader in an organisation I would often tell myself: you get the people you deserve, you get the people you deserve… (something I picked up from the late Chris Argyris). Ricardo Semler of Semco clearly lives by this “rule” as well. And so does Netflix!
Here are three questions Semler asked (there are more… actually):
- Why are we able to answer emails on Sundays, but unable to go to the movies on Monday afternoons?
- Why can’t we take the kids to work if we can take work home?
- Wh do we think the opposite of work is leisure, when in fact it is idleness?
Interesting, how simple questions can change the way we think about leading a company.
Netflix (Reed Hastings and Patty McCord) wrote a 127 (!) slides Powerpoint deck about their culture and performance and it was viewed more than 5 million times. What is fascinating about this document is that it – like Semler’s approach – revolutionary and strangely logical and intuitive at the same time. And both were met with scepticism as well.
- Hire, Reward, and Tolerate Only Fully Formed Adults (Take the vacation days you believe is appropriate and the total expense policy says: Act in Netflix’s best interest);
- Tell the Truth about Performance (no annual reviews and no performance improvement plans but informal but signed 360-degree reviews – if you no longer can perform you hear the truth and get a generous severance package);
- Managers Own the Job of Creating Great Teams (good compensation and if you see a better opportunity elsewhere, you should go there – no handcuffs);
- Leaders Own the job of Creating the Company Culture (consistency between your talk and your modelling, making sure everybody understands the levers that drive the business – clear link with Semco’s approach to teaching everybody to understand the P&L);
- Good Talent Managers Think Like Business People and Innovators first, and like HR people last… (no Chief Happiness Officers :-)
In the end the question we should be asking is this: What kind of people would I like to work with?
Then form your company for those types of people and not for the proverbial 3% who turn out to not be like that.