Netflix Innovation Culture - Health Check Retrospective Formats

4 Retrospective Formats Inspired by Netflix' Innovation Culture

The best tool for understanding your own corporate culture and values is not employee surveys, but rather agile retrospectives in combination with health checks (also called “pulse surveys”). In our series of posts you will learn why and how you can get inspired by the innovation cultures of successful companies such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Tesla.

The Corporate Culture (and Retrospectives) as a Sustainable Success Factor for Companies

In order to predict how successful a company will be in the long term, it makes no sense to analyze only the respective products or market shares, but rather the corporate culture: 

How well is the company able to 

  1. to attract talent
  2. to retain and engage employees and finally
  3. to form effective teams from them that are able to generate and implement innovative ideas?

Because in this way, the corporate culture significantly determines the ability of a company to continue to develop and successfully market innovative products in the future.

Every company has its own strategies and values for this in order to create a corresponding corporate culture. Of course, it's not about simply copying these corporate values, but rather about reflecting on which values make up your own corporate culture.

Agile health checks in combination with retrospectives are an excellent framework for reflecting on one's own values and establishing them in the everyday life of the teams.

The following retro formats are inspired by Netflix's innovation culture. You can use them to reflect on your own corporate values and create a common understanding of agile working.

The Agile Culture at Netflix: No Rules Rules

Netflix has created a unique, innovation-promoting corporate culture that has transformed them from online DVD rentals to streaming services to a Hollywood-style producer. Currently, Netflix is facing a though challenge of seeing the first-time decline in its subscription customers in Q1 2022 , but if the internal culture of innovation hasn't become rusty by now, the company is better prepared to overcome this challenge than other companies of its size would.

What defines the Netflix culture?

It all starts with an enormously high “talent density”, which enables Netflix to rely more than others on personal responsibility – instead of rules – as the driving principle. This personal responsibility is paired with a very direct but benevolent feedback culture. The principle: If you don't like something, but you withhold your opinion, you violate your responsibility to Netflix. Everyone has a duty to contribute what they believe is best for Netflix – and that includes open feedback.

The 4 Netflix Health Check Retrospectives

The Netflix retro formats refer to the im Book “No Rules Rules” (by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and psychologist Erin Meyer) described as the "innovation cycle" process of independently promoting and implementing ideas:

Netflix Innovation Cycle Step 1: Socializing Ideas and Look for Contradictions

Netflix Retrospective 1

Socialize ideas and look for contradictions

In order to enable self-organization and personal responsibility, it must become a matter of course that you “socialize” your ideas early on, i.e. share them with colleagues.

Self-organization can only be strengthened without jeopardizing coordination and agreement if this feedback loop works.

Health check item 1
Early feedback

Every time my colleagues come up with an idea, I have the opportunity to provide my feedback and criticism at an early stage.

💡Food for thought for moderation
  • How do we communicate with each other when new ideas arise?
  • How do we create an opportunity to give each other feedback on ideas?
Health check item 2

Motivation to give feedback

I like to share my feedback and criticism on ideas from my colleagues.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • When was the last time you shared your opinion or criticism of an idea and what was the reaction to it?
  • With whom or in what context do you find it particularly easy to share your feedback and why?
  • How can we respond to feedback in a way that makes it easy for others to share their feedback with us in the future?
Health check item 3

Benefit from feedback

Our internal feedback helps significantly to refine ideas at an early stage.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • Which ideas were recently shared in the team?
  • Which feedback led to an improvement of these ideas?
Netflix Innovation Cycle Step 2: Putting ideas to the test

Netflix Retrospective 2

Put ideas to the test

The self-organization at Netflix also means that each team member is responsible for checking that they do not fall in love with an idea and invest disproportionate resources in its implementation.

That's why Netflix thinks in "bets": Every new project is a bet and it's important to understand your bets and consciously take calculated risks.

Accordingly, every employee at Netflix must learn to be their own biggest critic of their ideas.

Health check item 1

Validate ideas early

When implementing ideas, we always focus first on proving the assumed potential and eliminating uncertainties.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • In which projects did early findings from implementation significantly change the original idea, or the further implementation plan?
  • How much uncertainty is currently in our projects?
  • In the case of major uncertainties: How could we proceed to validate the hypotheses that are essential for the project's success earlier or with less effort than planned?
Health check item 2

Openness to evidence

Even ideas that the management does not endorse can be tested without prejudice.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What guidelines or management views seem unnecessarily restrictive or incomprehensible?
  • Which controversial ideas have we not yet actively worked on in terms of validation?
  • What could a first step for an unbiased experiment look like?
Health check item 3

Objectivity

Our decision-making processes give greater weight to objective experimental results than individual opinions.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What objective results have recently influenced our decision-making?
  • Which objective results have not yet been sufficiently taken into account in our decision-making?
  • What objective data are we currently lacking in order to clear a decision backlog / bring about new decisions?
Netflix Innovation Cycle Step 3: Informed Captain

Netflix Retrospective 3

Informed captain

As surreal as it may seem to outsiders, Netflix does not define internal budget limits for decision-making powers.

If someone implements their idea as a so-called "informed captain", this person should not be held up by unnecessary approval processes. The philosophy is that an "informed captain" as an insider has better decision-making authority in his project than a manager who is not actually involved in the project himself.

Health check item 1

Expectation of personal responsibility

I am expected to implement ideas and projects independently.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What are the expectations of the stakeholders regarding the implementation of projects?
  • What opportunities for taking over personal responsibility are available?
  • What obstacles stand in the way of personal responsibility?
Health check item 2

Individual authority

Even in the event of disagreements with colleagues, I still have the freedom to push forward ideas on my initiative.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What disagreements have recently limited the autonomous implementation of projects?
  • In which situation would you have wished for more authority to make and take responsibility for decisions yourself?
Health check item 3

Taking responsibility

I am happy to take full responsibility for the implementation of our projects.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • In which situations should we have taken more responsibility?
  • When do you personally find it easier or more difficult to take on responsibility?
Netflix Innovation Cycle Step 4: Share (and Celebrate) results

Netflix Retrospective 4

Share (and celebrate) results

Every project has value for Netflix: either because it was successful, or because it wasn't successful and you learned something new as a result.

However, so that failed projects also have value, the learning experiences must of course be shared by project managers.

At the same time, it is important to celebrate project successes, especially when they have produced new insights that can resolve previous controversies.

Health check item 1

Appreciation for taking responsibility

Colleagues who have taken on responsibility and shown courage experience open appreciation for it.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What successes have we been able to celebrate recently?
  • At which points would we have hoped for more praise or appreciation?
  • In which situations was acceptance of responsibility or courage sanctioned in a negative sense?
Health check item 2

Sharing negative results

Failures and associated learning experiences are always shared in a proactive and reflective manner.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • Which of our projects failed and to what extent were they still valuable to us?
  • Which failures have we not sufficiently reflected upon?
  • How do we deal with it when failures are swept under the rug?
Health check item 3

Learning from mistakes

The failures are openly reflected by everyone and without any blame.

💡Food for thought for moderation

  • What reactions have we received recently to the communication of failures?
  • What added value has the open communication of our failure created for the company?
  • How do we record the learnings from our projects so that we can continue to benefit from them in the future?

Conclusion: Health Check Retrospectives as an Innovative Culture Tool

In the best case, your fingers are already itching to try out these health check retro formats and to better understand and further develop your team and corporate culture together.

In any case, we find these formats very inspiring and are therefore constantly working on further health check and retro formats. As you can imagine, with Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Tesla, there are many more inspirations, but we've saved them for the next few articles. 😉 

Retrospectives + Health Checks = Real Cultural Development

At Echometer, we have made it our mission to eliminate the need for outdated employee surveys as a tool for culture development by combining in our solution short pulse surveys (so-called “health checks”) with retrospectives aimed at sharing culture awareness and actual change to initiate in the everyday life of teams.

Progressive companies, like Shopware and netGo already use Echometer company-wide as a holistic solution for modern team and organizational development.

Try Health Check Retrospectives for Free

If you are ready for real team, organizational and cultural development as a basis for sustainable corporate success, try one of the suggested health check retrospectives in Echometer now for free. 

If you're not ready yet, that is no problem either. Then these 7 questions for Agile Retrospectives in a Scaled Agile SAFe contexts might be interesting for you. Just so you know, we obviously also have typical retrospective formats like the I like I wish I wonder Retrospective.

Other than that, we would be happy to give you 5 tips for agile retrospectives and our recommendation for the perfect duration of retrospectives. Last but not least, you are welcome to take a look at which 4 free options for online retrospectives there are. 

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