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Book: No Rules Rules

I read this on a recommendation, I was a little skeptical about the whole Netflix culture thing. Like most people I knew about the “fire the people who you wouldn’t fight to keep” and it seemed a little too cut-throat. In the end, I found the book fascinating – there was a level of nuance and an intentionality to how the different aspects built on each other that I really appreciated.

The main thesis is around three areas:

  • “Talent density” (i.e. fewer excellent people).
  • Candor (high quality feedback culture).
  • Controls (remove checks and bureaucracy).

The way “talent density” gets communicated seems pretty cold – especially to a European – but the sports team metaphor really landed it for me. “Peak performance” isn’t necessarily a forever situation (although their retention is not so far off industry averages).

Candor and the culture of feedback was the most interesting aspect. The way it’s built up, how leadership models receiving feedback to their teams, and supporting processes like 360s. Fascinating.

And finally the control aspect – there’s so much overhead to many workplace processes, but the layered approach to removing it, and how that fits with the other two pillars to work, has a lot more nuance.

Earlier in the book there’s more insight into the aspects that don’t work as well – such as leaders who don’t take vacation and as a result their teams don’t take vacation. I appreciate that things were checked with data where possible (such as retention rates, and vacation taken). Writing it with an external person and combining it with (candid!) staff interviews definitely made it richer and more believable than when a CEO simply expounds his philosophy in written form.

All in all, I really appreciated it and found it well worth my time. I’m not sure what I will apply, but it definitely gave me some things to think about!

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