How to Build a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

This post is based on my conversation with Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and author of Powerful.

“People have power; don’t take it away.” Patty McCord

Eliminate energy sucking policies and procedures.

Set people free responsibly.

Patty writes, “The Netflix culture wasn’t built by developing an elaborate new system for managing people; we did the opposite. We kept stripping away policies and procedures.”

Declare purpose before taking action.

I’ve worked where bureaucracy made work slow and tedious. I’ve also seen people flounder because they don’t know how to handle freedom.

Let everyone know that you’re learning how to build an organization that energizes people. One strategy is to eliminate unnecessary policies and procedures.

Avoid the all or nothing approach when it comes to simplifying organizational life.

Patty suggests the “stripping away process” be done gradually. Eliminate a policy and evaluate the effect. If things get worse, reinstate it. Otherwise, eliminate another policy or procedure.

This approach reflects something Denny Strigl did when he became the CEO of Verizon Wireless. An entire team was creating monthly reports that were sent upstairs.

When Denny asked who reads these reports and how they were used, no one knew. One month he didn’t send one of the reports.

Did someone upstairs complain? No.

Eventually he freed an entire team for more productive work by eliminating unnecessary reports.

The heart of culture building:

Patty explains that the heart of culture building goes beyond eliminating energy sucking practices. It includes the rigorous practice of values based behaviors. 

  1. Practice radical honesty. Have you said this to their face?
  2. Relentlessly focus on the future. Nostalgia is an early warning sign.
  3. Make needed changes fast, and be a great place to be from.

(“Power,” explains 8 culture building principles.)

Patty dedicated her book to her dad. I asked her that. That conversation turned into a conversation about radical honesty.

How do organizations/leaders drain power from people?

How might leaders build cultures of freedom and responsibility?

Follow patty on twitter: @pattymccord1