Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, by Patty McCord, 2018

“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.”

The Gist

This is a book about Netflix written by its former chief talent officer. It’s about the Netflix culture of radical honesty, hiring the best people and paying them what they’re worth to you, promoting who’s best, moving others on, having a clear sense of purpose, and engaging in collaborative problem solving. It follows the famous 2009 Freedom and Responsibility Netflix Culture Deck which is easily available online. The blurb says, ‘Powerful will change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.’ It probably won’t as its very context specific but it’s a worthwhile read for those interested in business culture.

What’s Good

I liked the summaries and questions at the end of each chapter. In fact, I read these first. I also liked the section headings which basically tell you what the author is going to say: made it easy to navigate. No index and very few notes which was less satisfying especially if you enjoy some research to follow up.

“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.”


Each chapter heading is a bit of advice. So here are seven bits of advice culled from the chapter headings.

  • Foster Freedom and Responsibility
  • Treat People Like Adults
  • Communicate Constantly About the Challenge
  • Practice Radical Honesty
  • Cultivate Strong Opinions and Argue About Them
  • Relentlessly Focus on the Future
  • Have the Right Person in Every Single Position
  • Compensation Is a Judgment Call
  • Make Needed Changes Fast, and Be a Great Place to Be

Something to Try

Try answering the ‘Questions to Consider’ at the end of each chapter. Apply them to your own context. Look out the 2009 Freedom and Responsibility Netflix Culture Deck online.