Once a year, in his letter to Amazon shareholders, Jeff Bezos gives a glimpse into his business world view and management philosophy. This year’s version did not disappoint. In it, Bezos explains how he thinks about preventing Amazon from slipping into “stasis,” “irrelevance” or “painful decline ... followed by death.”
“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?” That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” The letter makes for good reading and this quote is particularly pertinent from a market research point of view: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality. Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design. I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.” Read the letter here:
Most Decisions Should Probably Be Made With Somewhere Around 70% of the Information You Wish You Had In his letter to Amazon shareholders, Jeff Bezos says companies should be able to avoid entering Day 2 by having the ability to make high-quality decisions quickly. This is easy for start-ups but challenging for large organizations. “The senior team at Amazon is determined to keep our decision-making velocity high. Speed matters in business. He offers some thoughts:
1. “Never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process.
2. Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.
3. Use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes”.
4. Recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned. No amount of discussion, no number of meetings will resolve that deep misalignment. Without escalation, the default dispute resolution mechanism for this scenario is exhaustion. Whoever has more stamina carries the decision.