The Amazon Way: Principles 8-14

3 minute read

This is part 2 of my reflection on “The Amazon Way” by John Rossman.

Check out my thoughts on principles 1-7 here if you haven’t already.

8. Have a Bias for Action

  • Most decisions are reversible
    • Acting is better than sitting still, especially in the presence uncertainty.
  • Smart decisions are made with data.
    • Having the right data at the right time will allow you to act faster than the competition.

9. Practice Frugality

  • Resource constrained environments promote resourceful and innovative ideas.
  • “The Door Desk” - Desks are often made of old doors or particle board at Amazon.
    • Door desks were shipped to Europe for a new office… Jeff blew up.
    • Door desks are not a symbol, they are a practical way to save money.
  • Compensate with stock instead of salary.
    • This Makes employees more invested in business outcomes.

10. Be Vocally Self-Critical

  • “Open Kimono” policy
    • Everyone shares their mistakes with the organization so mistakes won’t be repeated.
  • The best leaders are those with “a blend of humility and will”
    • humble enough to admit they don’t know it all, but with the persistence to stay the course in the face of adversity.

11. Earn the Trust of Others

  • The “Two Pizza” team
    • Not as much about size, the spirit of the “Two Pizza” team is that the business should entrust small groups (6-10 people) with the autonomy to explore and innovate on their own.
  • Six keys to earning trust of your team
    1. Open your kimono - share your mistakes with the team
    2. Take responsibility when the team fails
    3. Build up your team members - especially in public forums
    4. Ditch the leash - give your team autonomy to make decisions on their own
    5. Accept confrontation - this is a sign that your team isn’t afraid to voice their opinions
    6. Find the value in each person

12. Dive Deep

  • Jeff has banned Powerpoint in favor of the “deep dive” essay summary
    • This technique forces the writer to dive deeper into an idea, instead of skimming the surface with high lever bullet points.
    • This is the reason why I like blogging: writing about technical concepts in blog format forces me to dive deeper into a concept than I often would when encountering it at work. It forces a deeper clarity of thinking, which helps with retention of the concept.
  • The “Five Whys” technique
    • Ask “why” five times when you encounter an issue to reach root cause.
    • This technique is a popular Quality Management System practice during the Corrective Action / Preventative Action process.

13. Have a Backbone - Disagree and Commit

  • Tenacity and perseverance are better indicators of someone’s likelihood to be successful than talent or skill.
  • Mental toughness - Don’t feel sorry for yourself, resent others’ successes, or give up after failure.

14. Deliver Results

  • This is truly the principle which matters most.
    • Following the other principles should make this easy to achieve!


It has been interesting exploring and reflecting on these principles. Many of the -isms contained in this book are referenced by my manager at Expedia, and I didn’t realize they originated from his tenure at Amazon!

While following these principles will certainly lead to a higher probability of success for your business, full adoption requires a level of employee sacrifice that many organizations aren’t willing to impose.

During a recent town hall at Expedia, someone raised the question “Why don’t we choose to operate more like Amazon?” The response from leadership was deliberate: Expedia is inspired by Amazon’s level of dedication and focus that they’ve inspired in their employees, but Expedia aims to achieve success in our space without an Amazonian-level of sacrifice. Expedia values work-life balance instead of the cutthroat “live to work” culture that has grown at Amazon.

Hearing that this was a deliberate choice was surprising, and I think the effects are apparent. While there is a ton of schedule flexibility at Expedia (a great benefit for employees) it does often feel that we operate at a slower pace than we otherwise could. Bureaucracy seems to be creeping in, especially as the organization has grown with recent acquisitions.

Being aware of these 14 principles – using their lessons to combat bureaucracy and drive value for the business – will make me a stronger contributor to my team and a more tactical decision maker in our org.

I definitely recommend “The Amazon Way” to anyone interested in learning how one of the most significant and disruptive companies of our time operates.