Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Mehdi Daoudi, Pat Romanski, Flint Brenton, Gordon Haff

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Netflix: Terror at the Top?

Fear-based Management as a Business Worst Practice

Yesterday I wrote of Netflix’s arrogance, their apparent disregard for the needs and priorities of their customer base, and their seemingly bizarre obsession with unnecessarily making their own problems (i.e., a changing shift in technology and market demand from physical media to streaming media) a problem for their customers by forcing two websites, two billing systems, and a 60% price increase on them.

A Customer Respect Issue?
Except for the 60% price increase, nearly everything that Netflix needed or wanted to do could have been done more or less transparently to their customer-base. Instead, Netflix demonstrated what many people believe is a lack of respect and an absence of concern for their customers.

Total Market Misread
As I wrote yesterday, they brazenly predicted a windfall of profits - anticipating an increase of 400,000 subscribers. Instead they’re on track to lose 600,000 customers this quarter. That the company could be SO out of touch with their customers that they would “miss” by a whopping 1 million customers is breathtaking. The first sign of corporate narcissism is a complete and total misread of how the market reacts to your decisions. Their decisions have cost them dearly, as their stock has dropped by 57% this year, wiping out some $9 billion in market capitalization.

How Could This Happen?
Along with most of the nation, I shook my head at Netflix’s recent announcements and thought “what were they thinking?” Netflix has a reputation of paying well above average, and they can afford the best and brightest. How could they commit what appears to be such clumsy ham-handed blundering?

After I wrote my article yesterday, I got a Tweet from Julie, otherwise known as @nihonmama. I had Tweeted about a “culture of arrogance at Netflix”. She asked me if I had ever taken a look at employee/ex-employee comments on GlassDoor.com. I went to GlassDoor, and within 60 seconds it hit me like a cast-iron skillet in the face – "people at Netflix are terrified...they literally work in a culture of terror and fear", I thought to myself.

A Culture of Terror and Fear – A Business Worst Practice
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a socialist who believes that companies should be run by some sort of democratic process. I’m not the most warm-and-fuzzy “there’s a place for everyone no matter how many times you screw up.” I believe in capitalism, and risk taking and accountability. What we are talking about here is something completely different.

Accountability and high standards are normal. A fear-based culture is aberrant and dysfunctional. If companies were people, then companies with fear-based cultures would be diagnosed with severe personality disorders and referred to a doctor for medication and therapy.

Describing a Culture
An excellent article from Ethikos and Corporate Conduct Quarterly by Ed Petry advises companies to be aware of their culture, as legally they are being increasingly held accountable for it.

The very first step he recommends is assessing the existing culture. “Begin by setting aside your values statement and your preconceptions. You need to hear directly from employees throughout your organization...your goal is to determine what people really think about the organization, what motivates them, what behaviors do they believe are rewarded and punished, what are the “unspoken rules” that everyone knows….examine the stories that currently travel on the corporate grapevine. Is there a pattern to the type of stories that survive the longest and travel the furthest?”

The closest I can come to this is to view the comments on GlassDoor.com left by current and former employees. There are well over 200 comments. What is striking is the similarity across a broad swath – the majority of respondents. Broadly speaking – people stated that they are/were working in fear, and in a lot of cases, they didn't/don’t feel respected. A feeling of one mistake, the wrong word to the wrong person, the wrong opinion, being perceived as not 100% in agreement, sudden terminations without warning.

From the Horses’ Mouths
I encourage you to read the comments yourself. I’ve selected a few that I believe reflect the opinions of the majority of respondents. Note that I'm focusing on the corporate culture. There are other themes such as high pay levels that I didn't bring out. Indeed, on the average, the respondents gave Netflix a 3.2 / 5 as a place to work, so there must be positive aspects to working there.

But getting back to "corporate culture" - selected comments from current/former employees of Netflix on GlassDoor.com:

  • It's only a matter of time before you're asked to go to a conference room and find yourself staring at a red Netflix packet. Advice to Senior Management: Wake up and start treating people right...what goes around, comes around.
  • You *will* get fired. It's just a question of when. There will be no warning, and you will be gone. Advice to management? Take a long hard look in the mirror.
  • Everyone is afraid to make a mistake or be perceived as making a mistake.
  • When it comes to people, Netflix is a throw-away culture. There is a price to pay for treating employees as easily replaceable commodities. Netflix goes to a lot of trouble to hire great people. It puts very little effort into keeping them. Employees live with a lot of stress and some fear knowing that they could be fired at any time no matter how hard they work, no matter how long they worked there, and no matter what they accomplished for the company.
  • Extremely high involuntary (and voluntary) turnover that puts everyone on edge and lowers morale; people are afraid they might say/do one undesirable thing and get fired. People are very afraid of making any mistakes for fear of being fired because it happens so often.
  • You are always on the tightrope...
  • Constant fear of being let go. Advice to Senior Management: your company is a revolving door and you continue to lose brilliant people because you don't treat them like human beings.
  • Cons: Read other reviews of former employees. Out of all people that I worked with at the time more than 80% were kicked out. Most of them are bright engineers. My advice - if you are offered a position in Netflix fight for the highest salary possible. In any case expect to be fired soon.
  • Constant fear of unreasonable dismissal. Open and honest feedback is only acceptable when it is in agreement with management's
  • Look at the comments on this site around turnover, treating people poorly, sick culture, and weak senior leadership. These are all very accurate.
  • The culture has serious problems. a. You will see countless references on this site to a “culture of fear”. This is widespread in every department and division. Even executives laugh that their time is numbered. A company that functions on fear is not a place for the long term. When everyone in a room is asked do they fear being fired and everyone says yes, that is a big problem. b. A culture of watching your back and stabbing others in the back. Many employees, including C level people, participate and have learned that tossing others under the bus keeps them safe. They see this as a way to protect themselves from scrutiny from above.
  • Employees and managers are all too comfortable talking about what is not working with a person. The 360 review process reinforces this. Those who have been there the longest are almost soulless with regard to firings. They have fired or seen so many people let go that they don’t really care anymore.
  • You can be fired without warning, feedback, or any coaching.
  • Most employees don’t bring any personal belongings to work as they could be let go at any moment. It is often a surprise.
  • Do not move for a job with Netflix. If your partner or spouse doesn’t work, you could be risking your families financial health.
  • There is no job security regardless of how good you are. Performance does not equal security at Netflix. Managers have a one-year shelf life before they get shown the door. Directors and VPs are constantly evaluating managers, so anytime you make a mistake, are perceived not to be cutting edge, it could be your turn.
  • Managers main role is making their team better through constantly looking for their weaker employees. Leaders are asked could they hire someone better. Of course the answer will always be yes. It’s incredibly stressful and life-shortening for you and your loved ones.
  • Why work at a place where people, including your hiring managers, treat you as completely disposable?

I’m sure the readers get the point. Again, read for yourself.

Ten Signs You Work in a Fear-based Workplace
I’d like to refer readers to an excellent article by Liz Ryan from Bloomberg Businessweek.

It starts off with an anecdote that reads in part “I tell my boss exactly what he wants to hear. People who tell my boss what he doesn't want to hear are people who get laid off at the end of the quarter." To me, that echoed much of what I had just read on GlassDoor about Netflix, except that I got the impression that things happened faster at Netflix.

Ryan comments that the principal signs of a fear-based culture are “preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes”.  Hello...Earth to Los Gatos?  Does this sound like you?

A summary of Ryan’s excellent “ten signs” list:

1) Appearances are everything

2) Everyone is talking about who’s rising and who’s falling

3) Distrust reigns

4) Numbers rule

5) Rules number in the thousands

6) Management considers lateral communication suspect

7) Information is hoarded

8) Brown-nosers rule

9) ‘The Office’ evokes sad chuckles rather than laughs

10) Management leads by fear

You make the call – read the 200+ positive and negative comments.

What’s Up with Netflix Executive Management?
Liz Ryan mentions in her article that fear-based CEOs surround themselves with “yes-people” and tend to promote those who are the least-knowledgeable but the most fawning (a nice way of saying “brown nosers”).

As a result, the top executives lose touch with reality. They never hear real opinions or participate in real discussions. They lose touch with their customers, and with reality. It becomes a bunker mentality – the leader (no longer "in touch") shouting out orders to fearful lackeys too afraid to speak out. And it continues down the command chain.

It’s this kind of situation that I believe lead CEO Hastings to completely lose touch with the customers and his market. To make decisions that enraged his customer base. To completely miscalculate the customer reaction to his decisions.

There is a special kind of blindness or even obliviousness that you see take over when some people become CEOs, especially after they've had some success. Aside from demonstrating being “out of touch with the customer”, they seem incapable of admitting that they might be wrong, and lack the ability to formulate a believable apology, or recover from mistakes.

For whatever reason, this class of CEO seems to believe that the way to recover from a mistake is to double or triple-down on that mistake.  I've got nothing against doubling down when I'm holding an 11.  But to double-down when you're holding a 5 doesn't seem like a great idea to me.

What to do Next?
Sadly, for the fear-driven enterprise, the next step rarely happens.

The next step involves doing a REAL assessment of the situation. They need to admit that “something is wrong” and acknowledge that the blame falls squarely on the very highest levels of leadership.

The C-suite needs to man-up or woman-up and take ownership of the monster they created. In an attempt to create the very highest performing of organizations, they went too far and created something else.

They made a mistake. It happens. Admit it, fix it.

Of course, arrogance at the top means that the likelihood of doing any of that is… well, don’t go holding your breath waiting for this to happen. Even odds as to whether this or single-payer healthcare in the United States happens first....

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
"We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business community around San Francisco so we educate the working professionals and this is where they all want to be," explained Judy Lee, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Golden Gate University, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
The general concepts of DevOps have played a central role advancing the modern software delivery industry. With the library of DevOps best practices, tips and guides expanding quickly, it can be difficult to track down the best and most accurate resources and information. In order to help the software development community, and to further our own learning, we reached out to leading industry analysts and asked them about an increasingly popular tenet of a DevOps transformation: collaboration.
We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of developers than there is about other groups. There’s a focus on improved and less isolated developer workflows. There are many discussions around collaboration, continuous integration and delivery, issue tracking, source code control, code review, IDEs, and xPaaS – and all the tools that enable those things. Changes in developer practices may come up – such as developers taking ownership of code ...
Cloud Governance means many things to many people. Heck, just the word cloud means different things depending on who you are talking to. While definitions can vary, controlling access to cloud resources is invariably a central piece of any governance program. Enterprise cloud computing has transformed IT. Cloud computing decreases time-to-market, improves agility by allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing market demands, and, ultimately, drives down costs.
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We are an integrator of carrier ethernet and bandwidth to get people to connect to the cloud, to the SaaS providers, and the IaaS providers all on ethernet," explained Paul Mako, CEO & CTO of Massive Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
With continuous delivery (CD) almost always in the spotlight, continuous integration (CI) is often left out in the cold. Indeed, it's been in use for so long and so widely, we often take the model for granted. So what is CI and how can you make the most of it? This blog is intended to answer those questions. Before we step into examining CI, we need to look back. Software developers often work in small teams and modularity, and need to integrate their changes with the rest of the project code b...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...