October 25


What you could learn from ‘Powerful’ by Patty McCord (2018, 148 pages)

Netflix is now the global superpower of streaming.  How did they get there, and how did they out-compete Google and Amazon?

Patty McCord in her book ‘Powerful’ suggests that the Netflix culture and a strong HR team, under her guidance, played an enormous part in that success.

In the book, Patty divides advice into nine chapters.

  1. Foster freedom and responsibility. Without freedom to work and solve problems in your own way and without the power to make decisions, you will not get motivated people who take responsibility for their work
  2. The greatest motivation is contributing to success.  Pay is a hygiene factor and perks don’t work, what really matters is not being on a losing team.
  3. Every single employee should understand the business.  People focus on their day job and will optimise for that.  Without understanding the whole system (company), they will make local maximum choices, not global maximum choices
  4. Humans hate being lied to and spun.  Be honest if people are underperforming, or if you no longer need their particular skill
  5. Debate vigorously.  Get to the right answer through challenge and debate, no ‘yes’ men, put everything on the table.
  6. Start building the company you want now.  Don’t hire or change incrementally, start with your dream team and work back
  7. Someone really smart in every job.   The right person is better than five wrong people.  Take time to hire that right person – don’t hope they ‘grow’ into the role.
  8. Pay people what they are worth to you.   If they add a lot of value, reflect that in their compensation, because if you do not, others will
  9. The art of goodbyes.  When someone leaves it is because they are not right for your company at that particular point, and also your company is not right for them.  Part on good terms by being honest about this and help them find an awesome new role


I loved this book.  It spoke so many fundamental truths to me, and while I disagree with a few parts of the advice, it is an excellent read and a compelling book.   What I will do now I have read this book?

  • Use the sports team analogy with my teams so show we need to fight the best person in each position
  • When hiring aim to improve the general quality
  • Communicate until people ‘just know’ what to do, and start repeating your words back to you
  • Give power to individuals and teams and act as their guardians to protect their power


You can buy Powerful here on Amazon UK

You can find the famous culture deck here https://jobs.netflix.com/culture.  The main points are:

  1. encourage independent decision-making by employees
  2. share information openly, broadly, and deliberately
  3. are extraordinarily candid with each other
  4. keep only our highly effective people
  5. avoid rules