Working Backwards


The authors lay out the leadership principles of what it means to be "Amazonian." Working backwards is all about starting with the customer perspective, working backwards step-by-step, questioning assumptions until you figure out exactly what you want to build and how you want to deliver it. It is all about seeking truth. This process takes more time on the front end, but it is much less expensive and difficult to course correct in the early innings rather than at the stage where you have an operating business

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. Especially in the early days, one bad customer experience can influence hundreds if not thousands a future customers. That is why Jeff was so maniacal about customer service. What distinguishes Amazon is that it’s leadership principles are deeply integrated into every person process and function across the company.
  2. The 14 Amazon leadership principles
    1. Customer obsession
    2. Ownership
    3. Invent and simplify
    4. Leaders are right, a lot
    5. Learn and be curious
    6. Hire and develop the best
    7. Insist on the highest standards
    8. Think big
    9. Bias for action
    10. Frugality
    11. Earn trust
    12. Dive Deep
    13. Have backbone; disagree and commit
    14. Deliver results
  3. Tensions don’t work, mechanisms do.
    1. Three core mechanisms to help translate the principles into action include the annual goal setting, the S team goalsetting plan and annual compensation packages to tie customer service with rewards. These operating plans are meant to intertwine the individual and company goals so that everything is self reinforcing and mutually beneficial. This takes tremendous planning and effort but it helps align every one in the organization.
    2. Amazon is different in the sense that the senior team focuses relentlessly on execution and details, not just strategy. Compensation very much tied to long-term Equity performance which ties to how well the company is serving customers
  4. The bar raiser program is one of Amazon's most successful and widespread applications. It is used as an efficient way to hire appropriate people in a way that is scalable, teachable, and that contains feedback loops for the team and the interviewee. This ensures a sustainable way to hire great people who always raise the bar for the company as a whole. The interview starts with a phone call. If likely to hire they will be brought in for a behavioral and bar raiser section. Four or five various people interview the candidate and there is a written segment that follows with their thoughts and takeaways. Then there is a group discussion for the feedback is collectively read and the candidate discussed. If the group decides to move forward they will do reference checks and then hire the candidate if they choose to do so
  5. One way Amazon has combated the friction that comes with becoming a large organization is what they call single threaded leadership. This person heads up on autonomous team who does nothing but focuses on this major initiative and they have complete responsibility and accountability for it. The best way to fail is to make that thing somebody’s part-time job
  6. what matters is not quite speed, but velocity (speed + vector)
    1. Velocity
  7. Be aware of where their exist dependencies - whether technical, organizational, or otherwise - that slow you and your progress down as you have to rely on others to accomplish what you need. Too many dependencies are said to be tightly coupled. Amazon had to shift to small, autonomous teams but are now famous two pizza rule. Micro services are offered by small independent teams that are able to move quickly and independently yet offer great service and features
  8. Amazon does not focus or spend time on morale boosting events. Instead, they focus on attracting world-class talent and empowering them to build things that scale. Focusing on controllable input methods rather than uncontrollable output methods leads to sustainable and meaningful growth. A high morale is an output and not an input
  9. Two pizza themes are most effective in product development and each team is given specific metrics that are agreed-upon which helps keep everyone aligned and on task. However, Amazon found out that it was not the size of the team which predicted predicted success Patty right leader who are the necessary skills experience authority and capacity to build a team and lead to success
  10. The highest salary but Amazon is $160,000. There are no bonuses or anything else any sort of extra compensation if you stock the thus between 18 and 24 months. This is difficult if you’re looking for a short term hip and satisfaction but very lucrative if you believe in Amazon and it’s long-term prospects
  11. Amazon was able to move into a completely tangential business with AWS through its single threaded leader ship principle that ruthlessly iterates and keeps customer service top of mind

What I got out of it

  1. A great, inside look into what makes Amazon, Amazon. Always start with what the customer wants and work backwards from there. 

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