Is Netflix the right example of enterprise 2.0 ?

Netflix recently issued a 128 slides document explaining their culture, their organizational model, their management and the way they work. It attracted a lot of attention and  advise you to read it before carrying on.

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According to many people, Netflix issued the reference enterprise 2.0 manifesto, or rather the management 2.0 manifesto.  What may we think of it ?

• I don’t know how (and if) Netflix uses 2.0 tools and it does not matter here. There is nothing about that in the document and the way people welcomed it means that culture matters more than everything and that the organization model prevails over tools. We already knew it but what’s better is the success of these slides shows that this perception is now becoming generalized, even unconsciously.

• As I wrote here or here, companies are structured around processes and will always be. That does not mean people should complete a set of tasks without having any autonomy. The Netflix’s approach seems exemplary to me : yes, there are processes, no, it’s not a set of coercitive instructions but rather a guiding line, allowing people to bring their own added value. Processes are seen under a “pull” perspective rather than a “push” one : the main performance lever is not pressure and control but removing constraints (read also here and here). In brief, this is not a process driven organization but an output and value driven management that happens through processes. This slight difference makes the difference.

• Netflix’s conception of control and goals may be disturbing for many people but, if we have a closer look, it makes a lot of sense. When everything is done to make everyone deliver his full potential, goals are a secondary concept. This point (and many others) remembers me of Deming’s words on quality. In some ways, it may makes us wonder why productivity and performance really mean today and if quality would not be more appropriate.

• Finally there is nothing really new here. I mentioned Deming in the lines above, but it’s also very close to what Ricardo Semler has been doing at Semco for years, what is explained in his book  “The Seven-day Weekend . Discovering that the way business is done is more important to performance that the business itself is not new that it’s been a part of some companies’ DNA, Danone for instance, for years. As a matter of fact they discovered that culture was their key performance levers years ago.

• The part dedicated to HR and personal developpement is really awsome and very concrete. Many should benchmark their own practices…

But we have to admit that many businesses may be very skeptic reading that.

• Can this model apply to all businesses ? Netflux is a rather young company that operates on a specific market, in a given context. Could a bank try to adopt everything that makes Netflix special ? I don’t think so. I rather see the “Netflix Manifesto” as an inspiration that has adapt to each different case.

• What to do if a business has a radically opposite culture ? First, wonder if the current culture helps to face current and future challenges. If yes, don’t change anything, this is the proof that there is no answer that fits every company. If yes, move making little steps, hire people who have the targeted culture, make the other change theirs (the Cisco case is worth reading – once again). Above all, don’t try to copy Netflix but try to find what would be coherent with your organization. It’s difficult and it takes time ? Yes, as every human change process.

I don’t know if Netflix is the perfect example of enterprise 2.0. I just know they have the right structure to face current and future challenges, whatever is the technological side of the company. And that the only point that matters.

One more question : assuming that we don’t know anything about how (and if) Netflix uses web/enterprise 2.0 tools, do you thing there would be a lot of work to do to make them adopted or that they would find naturally their place, without too many questions or unpleasantness ?

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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