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Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,574 ratings  ·  401 reviews
When it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. McCord helped create the unique and high-performing culture at Netflix, where she was chief talent officer. In her new book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, she shares what she learned there and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

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Hardcover, 228 pages
Published March 9th 2018 by Silicon Guild (first published January 9th 2018)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  4,574 ratings  ·  401 reviews


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Gary Moreau
This is one of a gazillion books about creating the team you need to be the next Netflix. Is it worth it? That depends.

If you’re looking for a passionate, pleasantly irreverent, contrarian perspective on building a high performance team, then the answer is probably yes, and you should consider this book a 5+.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for definitive answers on how to measure performance and talent, this book is another 1 or 2.

If you agree with McCord that the annual performance revi
...more
Ian
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
There is a good book hiding in here somewhere, underneath all the bathwater-sipping, survivorship bias, and self-promotion. Something about transparency, decisiveness, information availability, and individual decision-making. But the average employee at the average startup should be pessimistic if they see their founder reading this.
Bella
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excuse my language but I tabbed the $—- out of this book. I’m still trying to write down my notes and digest everything. I can’t wait to share it with my colleagues so we can talk about our thoughts and draw up some ideas. It’s a refreshing read that cuts to the chase. And OMG, thank you to the author for not making it a process or something that sounds like a “listacle,” in which the reader has to go through a linear, step-by-step, “here’s how to implement” kind of thing. The approach is more h ...more
Kair Käsper
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book has some good nuggets. It also has some pretty dubious advice that works under specific conditions occasionally presented in a God-like fashion. Skip the book and go through this instead. The book is basically a poor, unnecessarily long elaboration of only some of the key points in the original Culture deck.

What I liked:

- Everyone should understand the business. Previously my thinking has been that everyone should understand the customer, but they indeed should also understand the busi
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Jane Erickson
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I've been fascinated with the high-performance culture of Netflix for some time, so was excited to see all its elements condensed into a crisp, essentialized book like this. The book was written by Netflix's former Chief Talent Officer, Patty McCord, and reads with a frank, no-fluff tone that unapologetically challenges conventional views about management and culture.

My conclusion after reading the book is that the Netflix culture works...for Netflix. For a company in a certain stage of developm
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Quintin Zimmermann
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The nature of business in the modern technological age is evolving away from behemoth sized workforces to smaller highly skilled teams working deftly in unison within dynamic operational systems.

As the workplace evolves so should human resources - building a high-performance culture that can anticipate and keep pace with rapid change within the business itself and from competitors.

I thoroughly enjoyed Patty McCord's account of her exploits at Netflix which evolved from a DVD-by-mail business to
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Adam Nowak
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Short, practical, and very well written!

Takeaways:
* performance improvement plans not always make sense
* aim to hire people who are going to help you solve future problems
* it's ok that some people won't be able to always be the best in the company, there's always a time and place for everyone. It's somewhat sad&weird, but on the other hand, it might be done well
* working in a given way (radical candor, demanding excellence on many levels, partying ways with good people because they are no long
...more
Glenn Elliott
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The foundation of a great business book is a great story and boy does Patty McCord have a great story. She joined Netflix right at the start, carpooled into work with the CEO each day and spent 14 years pioneering a radically performance focused HR approach. What makes her journey especially exciting and valuable is that her experience at Netflix isn’t just a reaction to the unique circumstances Netflix was in - pioneering a new market and a new technology- its the fact that McCord and CEO Reed ...more
John
Feb 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very much a "here's what we did" without examining the root cause or true reason for doing so. Unfortunately, it comes across as if Patty McCord is desperately trying to claim a lot of this culture building as her own, despite the culture clearly flowing from the founders. Ultimately an empty book that falls for the notion of culture being a bunch of things that are done, rather than an out-flowing of the true heart within the organisation. A frustrating read that barely scratches the surface. ...more
Tõnu Vahtra
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My prior knowledge of Netflix was limited to Chaos Monkey and big data success stories and I had not read about the culture behind it. The book and the slide deck which predates the book definitely makes a number of bold statements. I like the approach of tackling the rise in complexity with more high performance people and creating the conditions for recruiting and motivating such people.

“Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented peo
...more
Seth Davis
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Going with a 4 here. This book is strong on explaining the experiences and cultural case study that is Netflix. There are real caveats around the application of these models in pieces or in whole to other companies. I appreciated learning about this from Patty's perspective. I found her style to be thoughtful around evaluating each aspect of HR and culture. ...more
Simon Eskildsen
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread
Brutally honest book by someone with serious experience from the field. It’s pragmatic, honest, credible, and invoragtingly subjective. It’s not a classic business book. The stories are real stories from a real company. Patty thinks about Netflix in an refreshingly integrated way. When the company faced an 8-month deadline to get on the next Wii cycle (or would have to wait 2 years), the recruiter who hired the engineers for the team felt it was as much her celebration, as that of the engineerin ...more
Justas Butkus
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Radical honesty as a way of augmenting the culture. There is no sense nor urging of reformation - only a calm story of abandoning some of the proverbial “common knowledge” approaches of working with teams and people.

A great read for anyone, at any level of any company - to get a better understanding of ones place in the business and what’s importance in the career.

An essential book on any managers bookshelf. To see how radical honesty helps foster a reliable work connections and build teams fo
...more
Kasia Michalak
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book I've ever read about building the culture of responsibility, wise hiring and managing the company. ...more
Willian Molinari
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a good book but I was expecting more from it. I think it happened because I had the chance to attend a workshop with Patty and it was very good. My feeling is that the book was not bringing that many news for me.

I part I like the most of this book is how Netflix "consider their employees as adults". Yes, I know it seems silly here, but c'mon *so many* companies don't do that. Companies and managers like to babysit their employees to a point that it looks ridiculous sometimes. One of the bes
...more
Philip Joubert
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I read the Netflix culture slides a few years ago and was completely blown away. So I was pretty excited when I came across this book from Patty. The book does a great job of fleshing out concepts from the slides and helped me understand how strategic a good HR function can be. Go Patty!
Barry O'Reilly
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most disruptive and actionable book for HR and culture leaders you'll find.

Outstanding.
...more
Kirill
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: management
Good written and entertaining book with the central theme of building culture of discipline, freedom and responsibility. It reflects all the important topics from the Netflix culture document, going deeper and explaining impact of the Netflix core values.

The book is in many points (understandably) reflects HR vision. Patty is speaking more about personalities and less about teams, giving impression of putting more accent on individualistic, maybe even a bit aristocratic approach.

There are many o
...more
Aman Mittal
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The nature of business in the modern digital and information overload age is ever-changing. The foundation of Patty McCord's book Powerful - Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility is that the as workplace progress, so should human resources.

The author challenges the old, traditional corporate HR that include annual performance reviews, retention plans, engagement programs, etc.
She clearly speaks her mind in the early chapters that these activities and actions are a mere waste of time
...more
Song
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
The most precious point about this book is the author, Patty McCord. She is the co-founder of Netflix as the HR person who knows well about the company's business. The rare combination of these three roles and qualities of the author granted the rare and valuable perspectives in the book about modern management practice for the millennial company and workers.

What I love most about this book is Patty's down-to-earth, no-nonsense, facts-based straight Texan talks about the critical business proble
...more
Olivia
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Definite departure from the typical corporate culture I am used to. Right now, I can only imagine working in an environment like that. An open and honest work environment sounds wonderful when coming from a place where that type of feed back is not promoted. Transparency and open communication goes a long way, this book focuses a lot on changing work place politics and HR standards by using these methods. I wish more places would start leaning into ideas like this. Failing to do so and keeping t ...more
Edilson Fontenele
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sergey Shishkin
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another good story of an organization built on radical honesty and deliberate and principled organizational design. One clear distinction from e.g. Basecamp's philosophy (see It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work) is Netflix' focus on winning rather than having fun playing.

The book at times felt like a long farewell letter to Netflix or an acknowledgements section, mentioning employees' glorified stories or quotes without necessarily not making the points clearer.
...more
Ryan
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent short book which presents some of the core ideas from the “Netflix culture deck” (pay market salaries, be fast to replace people, get rid of useless process like annual reviews, ...). I think the Netflix deck actually is a better document than this book, but this one is short and blissfully free of the filler found in many business books.

The thing I dislike about both the deck and this book is how lacking in context they seem to be. The Netflix model works really well for certain kinds
...more
Cara
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Perfect read as someone who works for a Tech start-up. I found the Netflix culture story as innovative and exciting but also one that a lot of companies could adopt certain principles from. Having worked in recruitment for multiple companies and now in Talent Acquisition and HR, this is a book I will recommend to others but also continuously revisit when working on certain projects. The only downside is of course that this model will not work for every company or start up particularly if the cas ...more
Jamie Bowen
Patty McCord joined Netflix at the right time, i.e. at the beginning, which allowed her and the rest of the executive team to create a culture that they wanted and free from the shackles of old management theories. How exciting must this have been? I believe this shines through in this book and it's an easy read. Quite how easy this would be to do a company whose been going for a number of years and with an embedded culture, I'm not sure but I believe so much can be learnt from this book. Great ...more
Karin
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is a old way and new way how to approach people and organizations. Patty McCord presents us the new way - the way that is most efficient both for emoloyee and the company. The biggest value for me was that innovative thinking was brought in nutshell, easily readable format and ready to be tested (even in parts) in your own organization. It made me review my values and thinking how to manage teams and make people to cooperate for same goal!
Ingrid Rodriguez
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Great teams are made when every single member knows where they’re going and will do anything to get there. Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want noting more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is.

Great teams are made when things are hard.
Nastya Khyzhniak
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hr, strategy
I might not agree with all the ideas in the book, but it doesn't prevent me from seeing it as a great example of concise culture development. Behind most of our actions hide mental models about the outside world and people - "Powerful" is a testament to a certain view of people and work organization. If you don't focus solely on ideas, you might see the process they underwent in gradually building the organization and its tactics according to their beliefs. The thing I appreciate the most is abs ...more
Nuno Miguel
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: productivity
Fabulous insights about the culture of one of the biggest and fascinating companies of the world. Some things will astonish you, others perhaps leave you perplexed, but you can't stop from recognizing the sheer passion the author, Patty McCord, has for Netflix and how her vision about people, work and top notch performance lead to the company's success. Also, she loves engineers! Recommended :) ...more
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79 followers
Patty McCord brings the Silicon Valley concepts of fresh ideas and innovation and applies them to rethinking the way we work. She challenges norms and invites us to reconsider the idea of “best practices.”

From her many years working with companies that range from very large global tech companies to small very small innovative start-ups, Patty saw first-hand how companies can become slow and compla
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“Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is.” 3 likes
“True and abiding happiness in work comes from being deeply engaged in solving a problem with talented people you know are also deeply engaged in solving it, and from knowing that the customer loves the product or service you all have worked so hard to make.” 3 likes
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