“Powerful – Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” by Patty McCord

Ranking: 3.5/5

I wavered in my rating of this book. The anticipation to read it was high; based on inside cover, I knew that there would be ideas in this book that would resonate with me (i.e., basically throwing a lot of the traditional ideas of HR out the window). The problem with high expectations is that you (I mean, I) can be easily disappointed. I wasn’t completely disappointed, but I also didn’t love the book.

First and foremost, this is a story about Netflix’s people practices and the experiments and experiences that they went through to create their corporate culture. In this book, Patty McCord effectively uses storytelling (I love storytelling) to illustrate what is possible when you are curious and ask questions. That is, when you question the way things have been done, when you question yourself, when you question others, and when you think about why you are doing what you are doing. And, while this was primarily a story of Netflix, McCord made it practical by ending every chapter with a summary (always a good thing) as well as questions to ask yourself as they applied to each topic. I appreciated that tool to create reflection and self-awareness.

There were a lot of great takeaways:

  • Treat people like adults, hold them capable, and give them the freedom and responsibility to act
  • Be a great company to be FROM
  • Stop talking about “A” players; focus on the match. One person’s A player is another person’s B player and vice versa
  • It’s okay to part ways with people

In the end, my caveat to anyone reading this book. Don’t just take the ideas and think, “Well, Netflix did it so we should do it.” Use the ideas as inspiration. Think about what makes sense for your organization. Ask yourself, what conditions must exist in your organization to be apply to the ideas in this book.