I really wanted to like this book. I expected to like this book. But as a scientist, I always have a critical eye open. And what that eye saw were (mostly): flawed concepts, endless Besoz brown-nosing, hypocritical soap-boxing and a sad misunderstanding of how to motivate people.
This book showed that fear and intimidation seems to rule at Amazon as employees do their best not to get fired for asking for an aspirin.
Behaviorally, how does a culture of fear and intimidation manifest? Well, it starts out innocent enough. People want to be successful. Then, when they are successful, they assume that this approach or another is the only way to be successful. So they hold everyone to a standard that exists only in their minds and, in the case of Besoz, a nearly impossible standard.
So what happens when, inevitably, everyone doesn't happen to be a mind reader? Punishment. Punishment. Punishment. These leaders don't know how to manage people. So when they are underwhelmed with someone’s performance, they're PISSED. Therefore you (the employee), in an effort to avoid a verbal tongue-lashing, do what the leader asks as best as you can. But basically, you always live in a world of fear of what Besoz.... Errrrr cough cough... your leader will do if you ever screw up.
And then there are the side-effects….
Living this way does NOT foster innovation, creative thinking or above and beyond efforts. Because, guess what, Besoz-style leaders? PEOPLE DON'T LIKE YOU! They may admire your talent, but being in your presence is likely a major pain in the ass.
People will be more likely to hide mistakes and failures (duh. Who wants to be berated?)
Employees can be unexpectedly emotional.
And, worst of all, they will pass this leadership style down creating a well instilled culture of command and control.
One example from the The Amazon Way involves something called the “Forcing Function.” The idea here is to force people to engage in a specific activity that will ensure that your goals are met. Want to make sure your people think projects the whole way through? Make them write an essay on it.
The one glaringly sad issue with this tactic is that there is a need to “force” the behaviors you need. Only cultures ruled by fear and intimidation work this way. Reinforcement-based cultures don’t need these tactics. They will willingly get behaviors they need and then some (contact me for more on this concept).
And then there is that other thing...about the title...and concept behind the whole book itself. You see, the listed items in this book are NOT Leadership Principles.
Yes. If you want to run a company like Amazon, this book will help you. But if you want to be a successful leader. RUN FROM THIS BOOK. Drop it now. Back away slowly....and RUN! And never did I get the sense that this was the most disruptive company in the wor.... I'm just going to stop. You get the picture.
So that's the bad news about this book. And it is really bad. BUT there were a few glimmers of hope. YAY!
The best of these was the concept of Other People's Work or OPW. This concept is just genius and behaviorally sound. I intend to use it as often as possible. As far as I understood it, it works like this:
If the unpaid online community is willing and motivated to do smaller, otherwise mundane tasks, leave it up to them and free up that time from your workforce. The example given was related to product descriptions. Why pay someone to go through every nuance of a product when the customers are motivated to share their information with others? If something tedious like this needs to be done one way or another and someone outside of your payroll finds it reinforcing to do without a paycheck, let them do it! It's a win-win.
Then, there was about a page and a half on pages 97-98 where there is honest-to-god leadership advice. And some darn good stuff too. All packaged nicely in a 6 bullet list. But, the thing is....Amazon didn't create them. They are cited as being by a "leadership guru" named Michael Hyatt. Soooo maybe read one of his books?
Better yet. Write to me. Let actual science be the backbone of your leadership endeavors.
I just wish I would have read page 110 at the very beginning. It says, "So my final advice to you is to forget the first 13 principles entirely. 'Deliver Results' is the only one that really matters. Just kidding. Sort of."