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    • Ever since Netflix posted its culture doc on the Internet, I have been fascinated with it. Even The Harvard Business Review wrote about it. Sheryl Sandberg called it "Maybe the Most Important Document Ever to Come Out of the Valley."

      It's so bold. "Great workplace is stunning colleagues, not espresso, lush benefits, sushi lunches, grand parties, or nice offices."

      "Like most companies, we try to hire well. Unlike many companies, we practice: adequate performance gets a generous severance package."

      Some say it's too bold, arrogant, and scary. What do you think makes a great workplace?

    • My background is public service employment, basically a job for 30 years and a modest pension. Gettig fired is possible but you have to f*ck up in style. You can bimble along without reviews, performance tests, etc.

      "We have no bell curves or rankings or quotas such as “cut the bottom 10% every year.” That would be detrimental to fostering collaboration, and is a simplistic, rules-based approach we would never support. We focus on managers’ judgment through the “keeper test” for each of their people: if one of the members of the team was thinking of leaving for another firm, would the manager try hard to keep them from leaving? Those that do not pass the keeper test (i.e. their manager would not fight to keep them) are promptly and respectfully given a generous severance package so we can find someone for that position that makes us an even better dream team. Getting cut from our team is very disappointing, but there is no shame. Being on a dream team can be the thrill of a professional lifetime."

      This is the difference between public and private sector employment. And Netflix say it up front, if you are a star you will be paid well and have a job. Slip into mediocrity and you are shown the door (with a decent severance package).

      If I was starting again, and had the skill sets, I would be happy to work with Netflix. If they are true to the culture doc, then the HR bs seems to be minimal, You can speak out without fear of recrimination, if you have a good idea, you can express it.

      It would be tough to work with the sword of damocles hanging over your head, falling if you don't overperform, but that's how modern employment is. If you want to work in a top tier company, then you need to be the 1% employee who can handle the stress and long hours and push yourself.

      I do wonder if people would make a 20 or 30 year career with Netflix or would they do 5 years and move on. Would the pressure to overperform, to pass the "keeper" test, wear you down?

      It's an alien world to me, given my work background. But I do like how up front Netflix are and you know from day one how hard you have to work to keep your job.

      Adequate isn't acceptable... is a bold statement and I can see the bright people gravitating towards them.. it would be a challenge

    • Welcome to Cake, smoking Joe! I tried to find an emoji with cigar and failed.

      I listened to an interview with Shonda Rhimes the other day, famously the creator of Gray's Anatomy among other shows. She says she hires people who will argue with her, have different points of view, point out where she's mistaken.

      She said she asks in interviews, "what are the weak parts of Gray's Anatomy?" If people can't come up with concrete answers, she won't hire them. Her philosophy is everything can be improved and she's not going to get anywhere with people who can't point out areas that need fixing.

    • There's an interview with her recently (January 7) on Recode/Decode. Really interesting especially given the culture at so many tech companies these days...

    • I listened to that interview and I wonder what you think of it? Some people say she came across as lacking empathy, not the kind of HR person they would want in their companies.

      She also gave an 11-minute TED talk. In the first half, she did seem a little bit arrogant and critical of all the stuff we do now that we hate, like the annual performance review. But in the last half of the talk, she described what inspires teams: having great colleagues and working on cool stuff. I think she's right about that.

    • Don't know what your politics are, doesn't matter, but a question that was asked of Obama when he was first elected stuck with me all these years: "Mr. President elect, why was there so little drama on your campaign? Clinton and McCain have much more executive experience than you and their campaigns were full of drama, as campaigns usually are. Did you just get a good campaign manager?"

      His response: "I tell everyone there are three things you can focus on: the mission, personal ambition, and personal grievance. Focus on the mission. It's the best way to take care of the other two."

      I've found that to be awesome advice. Warren Buffet's partner, Charlie Munger, has a slightly different take. He says in order to become a good leader, you have to get control of your emotions and hire people who have good control of theirs.

    • She definitely came across as a bit cold, which could definitely feel less welcoming as a new employee. However, as someone who has experienced pretty terrible HR people and structure, I think her clarity of mission and workplace environment would be extremely welcome.

    • One of the big issues that I have witnessed and struggled with is how keeping the wrong people on punishes the right ones. This can be obvious, but more typically, it is subtle- adequate performers disrespect good ones by sucking up the energy of an organization and lessening the ability of good performers to do the work that they see needs to be done. It has also been my observation that adequate performers are more concerned with praise and credit than good ones are, which can lead to more recognition for less contribution.

      My fiancee works for the Forest Service, which can be the ultimate expression of this dysfunction. So much "dead wood standing", people waiting for retirement, with essentially no ability to discipline and none whatsoever to fire. She is lucky that her crew is generally adequate or better, but in many instances, the only way to get rid of a crappy performer is to help them get promoted out of your organization. Talk about perverse incentives. It is maddening to watch from the outside. Furthermore, hiring is a goat rodeo that rarely if ever gets the right candidates to the hiring committee, and while they are barred from asking about race, they are supposed to be affirmative so there are discussions like "does that name sound Hispanic?". Government HR should be studied in the same way we look at disease.

      I think people are generally wired to perceive and understand fairness. That wiring is what the Netflix document relies on, and I think it's brilliant.

      For me, the big issue that prevents people and companies from being more fluid in finding the right people for the right role, and the right role for a given person, is healthcare. Hiring and firing are overburdened with the knowledge that the implication of letting someone go can be much greater than a paycheck. If I were king (laughter required), the first thing that would happen is we would decouple health insurance from employment, which would have many other benefits than this one.

    • Fascinating, Ned. I've always wondered how it worked at places like the Forest Service. I've actually been curious about that for awhile because it seems whenever I meet a park ranger they seem great. I don't remember meeting one who wasn't friendly and helpful and I wondered how that was possible with the way they hire a fire. Maybe just my sample size?

      Back in the day I worked for Steve Jobs at NeXT, which Apple bought, and our software NeXTstep became Apple's OS X and iOS. Steve was fond of saying all his life, "A players hire A players, but B players hire C players." And he said the As get frustrated and leave when there are too many Bs and Cs.

    • In fairness, many of the people I dismiss as dead wood standing are nice, and are able to interact with the public reasonably well, but when it comes to actually contributing to innovative management, not so much. We see so many more people in the woods making recreational demands, and we also have species under strain and higher timber extraction targets and etc... it takes a bit of creativity to make all this work together, and that can be in short supply.

      Also, just to make a distinction that many people don't understand, the Forest Service is part of the USDA. A Ranger in the FS is the line officer responsible for acreage, sort of the captain of a single ship in an armada. One fascinating thing: signatory responsibility for acreage lies at the District Ranger (a GS-12 or 13 position that is always local). The Forest Supervisor can instruct (admiral in my fleet analogy), the Region can instruct (fleet command), but the ultimate authority lies locally. That doesn't come into play much, but it does change the dynamic. Parks (and Monuments) are part of DOI, as is the BLM. A ranger in Interior tends to be much more outward facing.

      As far as I can tell, the Government takes a perverse pleasure in making things difficult to understand with different names for the same role and jargon for every aspect of process, and then asking for public input which they will disregard if the details of the comment aren't perfect. Where's the beating head into the wall smiley? :-)

    • Fascinating! I can't get enough of understanding what makes organizations tick and I've always wondered about them.

      I used to work with a guy who was making a transition from 20 years as a park ranger to working in tech as a product manager in a Steve Jobs company. He was so charismatic and smart, but the aggressive, high-paced life really ate him up.

      To be fair, it ate up people who were used to mild cultures like HP was famous for too. I'm told by my friends at Facebook, the #1 rated best place to work in America by some rating agency I don't know, that Google employees really struggle when they get there.

    • There has to be employment for the average joe. Police / fire / ranger / all attract a certain type who aren't intent on changing the world, just doing the job each day, dealing with whatever arises, rinse and repeat.

      There's a world of difference between public employment and the high intensity private sector where you are judged on performance and paid, or fired, accordingly.

      The "job for life" suits a certain type of person who is content to work at a certain pace. There are ambitious people in the public services, who go for promotion, better themselves by getting degrees, but the majority are journeymen / women who are content to do each day for a set wage with the security of employment that is offered.

      I don't know if I could have worked in the private sector in the US. Being constantly under pressure to perform and to excell.... I think I would have burnt out.

      There was a good article in the NY Times about working conditions in Amazon


      I wouldn't last 10 minutes in that workplace.

      Quote from above article:

      "Bo Olson was one of them. He lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

    • Interesting thread. When I started at SGI, we were in orientation where we were told “you are the best and brightest”. Which follows As hire As. But not everyone is an A at some point.

      SGI was where I was introduced to HPs rating and ranking system. HR had their list of titles which meant you might have two people with the same title doing different jobs and were ranked and rated as if they were the same. I have never been in such a politically charged meeting as a ranking and rating session. It’s why good people get left by the wayside or leave-it is the reason penguins harp “wasn’t strong enough to survive” in order to justify their decisions.

      In a couple of startups I’ve been at since then, G&Os were important and reset from time to time. At review time, your performance was measured against you. Much better in my mind.

      Regarding whether I’d fight to keep someone. Idk. By the time someone resigns, it’s too late. It’s better that you keep your ears and eyes open and respond before it gets to the point of begging and pleading. At the least, see what you learn about the whys. Fix what you can and move on.

      The biggest thing I’ve taken away is that a team that enjoys success may not necessarily succeed again. There are intangible things like timing, outside influences, and other things that contribute to great teams and those aren’t always easy to put a finger on.

      Back to As. You need a balance of all three. And it’s best when people recognize and embrace their roles as opposed to figuring out how to sabotage others.

    • One of the big issues that I have witnessed and struggled with is how keeping the wrong people on punishes the right ones.

      I shared the below thoughts recently with an amazing teacher whose co-worker was destroying the organization environment: