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August 26, 2015

Amazon’s Mess – my response in Huffington Post – and some additional thoughts

"…insights for scaleup"


HEADLINES: (weekend bonus?)

Amazon's Situation — last weekend's New York Time's expose on the apparent brutal work environment at Amazon has encouraged a wave of responses, so I thought I would weigh in as well. Here's a link to my reaction in the Huffington Post.

Three Key Points:

  1. Founder Jeff Bezos must build his dream on the backs of silicon beings vs. human beings.
  2. Their system for allowing employees to provide anonymous feedback on other employees (rat them out) violently violates everything we know about leadership (and parenting) 101, destroying the very trust they claim as one of their 14 rules.
  3. Rank and yank has proven to be ineffective. If you need competition to fuel creative juices, seek it from the outside. Reread Jack Stack's Great Game of Business.

Core Values Jim Collins helped us understand that there are no "right or wrong" core values – they just "are." The key is for there to be congruity between actions and values. Amazon's anonymous feedback system fails this test, which is why serious cracks are forming in their culture. Bezos should have announced the end of this system the day after the NY Times article.

Principles — and supporting Values, which can vary between company and country cultures, is a foundational layer of Principles which, in turn, is the same across all organizations – something we don't talk enough about. In business, transparency and trust are two such principles. They are as sacrosanct as freedom of speech. No systems or values can trump these principles or there is long term danger.

Systems of Survival— this is the title of one of my favorite books. Written by the late Jane Jacobs, she delineated a set of "moral precepts" she felt must underpin successful commerce. I think it's an excellent list – and have found in all my commercial dealings that when one of these precepts is violated, things turn out badly:

  • Shun force
  • Compete
  • Be efficient
  • Be open to inventiveness and novelty
  • Use initiative and enterprise
  • Come to voluntary agreements
  • Respect contracts
  • Dissent for the sake of the task
  • Be industrious
  • Be thrifty
  • Invest for productive purposes
  • Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
  • Promote comfort and convenience
  • Be optimistic
  • Be honest

It's this list that provides a foundational bedrock upon which you can build your own unique culture (core values) and company. Have a great weekend.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

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