Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Amazon Way

I recently completed The Amazon Way by John Rossman, a book that extols the 14 leadership principles that drives Amazon as a company, as well as each and every employee lives and breathes each principle daily. In this book, John uses real life experiences and stories from his Amazon days, I always appreciate such war stories with concrete examples linking back to real-world experience.

These principles resonated a lot with me (I could identify and think of personal experiences/tendencies relating to all fourteen, I wouldn't have minded working in Amazon!), and so I decided to write each principle down so that I can remember them better, even though these principles exist as part of the Amazon Careers site here.

I find writing things down helps me remember things better than reading does, here's the 14 Leadership principles:

1. Obsess Over the Customer

Leaders at Amazon start with the customer and work backwards, seeking continually to earn and keep the customer's trust. Although leaders pay attention to their competitors, they obsess over their customers.

2. Take Ownership of Results

Leaders at Amazon are owners. They think long term, and they don't sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They never sat, "That's not my job." They act on behalf of the entire company, not just their own team.

3. Invent and Simplify

Leaders at Amazon expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify the processes they touch. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by "not invented here" thinking. And they ate willing to innovate fearlessly despite the fact that they may be misunderstood for a long time.

4. Leaders are Right - A lot

Leaders at Amazon are right -- not always, but a lot.  They have strong business judgement, and they spread that strong judgement to others through the utter clarity with which they define their goals and the metrics they use to measure success.

5. Hire and Develop the Best

Leaders at  Amazon raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion.  They recognise exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organisation.  Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.

6. Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders at Amazon set high standards -- standards that many people consider unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver an ever-increasing level of quality. Leaders also ensure that the few defects that elude the quality process do no get sent down the line, and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

7. Think Big

Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders at Amazon create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for big new ways to serve customers.

8. Have a Bias for Action

Leaders at Amazon value calculated risk taking.  Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study.  So when you are in doubt, try something -- and take advantage of the opportunities that being the first in the field can offer.

9. Practice Frugality

A leader at Amazon tries not to spend money on things that don't matter to customers.  Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention.  No extra points are awarded for headcount or budget size.

10. Be Vocally Self-Critical

Leaders at Amazon do not consider themselves, or their teams, above criticism.  They benchmark themselves against the best, and they are proactive about revealing problems or mistakes, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing.

11. Earn the Trust of Others

Leaders at Amazon are sincerely open-minded, genuinely listen, and examine their own strongest convictions with humility.  Their openness enables them to trust those around them -- and to earn the trust of others in return.

12. Dive Deep

Leaders at Amazon operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, and audit them frequently.  No task is beneath them, because they know that only a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of a process can really uncover opportunities and solve problems before they become insurmountable.

13. Have a Backbone -- Disagree and Commit

Leaders at Amazon have conviction.  They are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting; they do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion.  But once a decision is made, they commit to it wholeheartedly.

14. Deliver Results

Leaders at Amazon focus on the key outputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion.  Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

What's your thinking style?

Pic Source: Daily Telegraph
I came across this exercise recently from one of my holiday reading, Socrates' Way by Ronald Gross, that I thought it useful to share with others.  

I have always had a personal bias to IQ testing, especially the ones when applying for a job, HR puts you through a battery of tests, aimed at gauging one's IQ / Intelligence. Google & Microsoft too, up until a few years back, used brainteasers & other puzzles to sift out candidates at interview stages... 

So I've always had a natural aversion and impatience to these tests because I didn't feel comfortable with one number to be associated as a measure of me, my whole self...and thus resisted & challenged the point of such tests for the workplace...

The IQ test was supposed to measure your capacity to think and learn and therefore predict your success in school (and the workplace). However, contemporary psychologists have debunked this whole idea of a single capacity called intelligence. You have no one but at least seven intelligences, according to Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner:
  • Linguistic intelligence
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence
  • Spatial intelligence
  • Musical intelligence
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (knowing yourself)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (knowing other people)

Simple Exercise to pinpoint some of your Strengths

Circle/Note the numbers of these descriptions that you fell apply to you:
  1. You easily remember nice turns of phrase or memorable quotes and use them deftly in conversation.
  2. You sense quickly when someone you are with is troubled about something.
  3. You are fascinated by scientific and philosophical questions like "When did time begin?"
  4. You can find your way around a new area or neighbourhood very quickly.
  5. You are regarded as quite graceful and rarely feel awkward in your movements when learning a new sport or dance.
  6. You can sing on key.
  7. You regularly read the science pages of your newspaper and look at magazines on science and technology.
  8. You note other people's errors in using words or grammar, even if you don't correct them.
  9. You often can figure out how something works or how to fix something that's broken without asking for help.
  10. You can readily imagine how other people play the roles they do in their work or families and imaginatively see yourself in their roles.
  11. You can remember in detail the layout and landmarks of places you've visited on vacations.
  12. You enjoy music and have favourite performers.
  13. You like to draw.
  14. You dance well.
  15. You organise things in your kitchen, bathroom, and at your desk according to categories and in patterns.
  16. You feel confident in interpreting what other people do in terms of what they are feeling.
  17. You like to tell stories and are considered a good storyteller.
  18. You sometimes enjoy different sounds in your environment.
  19. When you meet new people, you often make connections.
  20. You feel you have a keen sense of what you can and can't do.
If all three descriptions of these trios apply to you, you probably are strong in that intelligence, even if you haven't cultivated it:
  • 1, 8, 17: linguistic intelligence
  • 6, 12, 18: musical intelligence
  • 3, 7, 15: logical-mathematical intelligence
  • 4, 11, 13: spatial intelligence
  • 5, 9, 14: bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
  • 10, 16, 20: intrapersonal intelligence (knowing yourself)
  • 2, 10, 19:  interpersonal intelligence (knowing others)
When I did the exercise, I'd circled: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20.

Bringing it to the workplace

I have come across the Socratic Method which was used by Eli Goldratt in his Theory of Constraints books (I've got one last book of his to read), and hence started to study the method in more detail, to learn and adapt my own way of thinking, apply the methods to my work and life situations, and use it as tool in my day-to-day consulting engagements and coaching sessions. The agile coaching community also refer deeply to the Socratic Method of asking questions, not providing solutions - and it all starts with knowing one's self. If you know yourself, then you'll be aware of your own strengths & weaknesses, as well as being able to at least relate to others.

In the workplace, we often work with teams - and in the agile methods - we aspire to work in self organising, cross-functional teams. As a leader (Scrum Master, Manager, etc.) it is essential to know the dynamics of the team, right down to individual character strengths and motivational values...why not try this exercise with your whole team?? It's bound to shed new light on things?