F&R (Freedom and Responsibility) are the cornerstone of the values held at Netflix. Unlimited holiday, no need to follow your bosses instructions, financial sign-off to any amount – all this F&R gives employees the sense of ownership and empowerment, and with that, Reed argues, comes greater creativity. The book is well written, with a well thought-out structure, and an easy read.
The issue I have with this book and the approach, is the so-called “keeper test”. You can only give staff this level of F&R if you have fully commitment, high performing staff. Any low performers would reduce the “talent density” and make those benefits unworkable and abusable. In Jack Welch’s era, all staff would be ranked and the lowest 10%, regardless of performance, would be shown the door. Netflix isn’t quite that brutal – but the “keeper test” is if your employee offers their resignation would you fight to keep them? And if you wouldn’t, why bother having them on your team now, just show them that door! They lessen the blow with a “generous” severance package, but they did concede that this had to be raised in European countries.
In the UK, where I live, this approach simply wouldn’t be possible. You can’t fire someone because they’re not exceeding – provided they’re doing the job they were hired to do, they’re entitled to that position. I would’ve liked to have seen a chapter discussing this, and how to deal with ‘average’ staff in these situations, but the approach throughout was to simply show the non-excellent that door.
Overall, it’s an interesting book, with well reasoned arguments, and I’m sure many of the practices will (and already are) being adopted by the wider IT industry.