5 Things Project Managers Can Learn From Netflix

Netflix, the US movie subscription service posted this deck on Slideshare, which describes its creative approach to culture, people, process and incentives.

1. Inspire with context setting, rather than managing details

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the endless sea.”

Antoine De St-Exupery

2. Culture is not rules, but behaviors

Enron had an impressive list of values, but evidently didn’t practice them. Culture is not about what behavior gets talked about, but gets rewarded.

3. The best can be 2-10x as productive as the rest

In processes, the best people can be 2x as productive, in creative roles, the best can be 10x as good as the average person. Work hard to recruit and keep the best people on your projects, because they are disproportionately effective contributors.

4. Hard work doesn’t matter

It’s about results, working long hours isn’t relevant as long as results are achieved.

5. Too much process is counter-productive, encourage freedom.

Process will tend to frustrate high performers and drive them out. Maintaining process will often take more time/effort in creative industries than the cost of fixing a mistake. The goal therefore is rapid recovery, not perfect process. For example, spending under a fixed budget each quarter (high degree of freedom) is a better process than fixed approval for every $5k of expenditure (high degree of process).

Netflix also has no vacation policy, employees chose how to manage their vacation in a way that sense for them as long as they get their goals accomplished.

It’s an interesting model, they admit it’s not suited for nuclear power plants or open heart surgery where a checklist might be a better approach, but for a creative project, Netflix offers some interesting ideas to consider.

4 responses to “5 Things Project Managers Can Learn From Netflix

  1. Actually I would venture that the 5 could apply to almost any business change or product project. Perhaps even building the nuclear power plants! where I suspect most errors come from not understanding context, wrong behaviours, rigid processes that attempt to cover every eventuality, etc.

  2. Thanks David, yes, I ‘d broadly agree, just wanted to put a project management slant on it since that’s the core audience for this blog. The only one I think may not be generalizable is number 5, I think there the decision about how much process to apply really depends on the specific company/role/industry/employee – process isn’t always bad, but for a hyper creative company like Netflix it often is, but that one wouldn’t work for nuclear power plants. The other 4 likely would though, and as you say, more context is always better than less.

  3. Pingback: The false choice between process and agility | Strategic PPM

  4. Pingback: Project Management In A Flat Organization | Strategic PPM

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