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Working Backwards is an insider's breakdown of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. Colin started at Amazon in 1998; Bill joined in 1999. In Working Backwards, these two long-serving Amazon executives reveal and codify the principles and practices that drive the success of one of the most extraordinary Working Backwards is an insider's breakdown of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. Colin started at Amazon in 1998; Bill joined in 1999. In Working Backwards, these two long-serving Amazon executives reveal and codify the principles and practices that drive the success of one of the most extraordinary companies the world has ever known. With twenty-seven years of Amazon experience between them, much of it in the early aughts—a period of unmatched innovation that brought products and services including Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Studios, and Amazon Web Services to life—Bryar and Carr offer unprecedented access to the Amazon way as it was refined, articulated, and proven to be repeatable, scalable, and adaptable. With keen analysis and practical steps for applying it at your own company—no matter the size—the authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. Bryar and Carr explain the set of ground-level practices that ensure these are translated into action and flow through all aspects of the business. Working Backwards is a practical guidebook and a corporate narrative, filled with the authors’ in-the-room recollections of what “Being Amazonian” is like and how it has affected their personal and professional lives. They demonstrate that success on Amazon’s scale is not achieved by the genius of any single leader, but rather through commitment to and execution of a set of well-defined, rigorously-executed principles and practices—shared here for the very first time. A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press


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Working Backwards is an insider's breakdown of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. Colin started at Amazon in 1998; Bill joined in 1999. In Working Backwards, these two long-serving Amazon executives reveal and codify the principles and practices that drive the success of one of the most extraordinary Working Backwards is an insider's breakdown of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. Colin started at Amazon in 1998; Bill joined in 1999. In Working Backwards, these two long-serving Amazon executives reveal and codify the principles and practices that drive the success of one of the most extraordinary companies the world has ever known. With twenty-seven years of Amazon experience between them, much of it in the early aughts—a period of unmatched innovation that brought products and services including Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Studios, and Amazon Web Services to life—Bryar and Carr offer unprecedented access to the Amazon way as it was refined, articulated, and proven to be repeatable, scalable, and adaptable. With keen analysis and practical steps for applying it at your own company—no matter the size—the authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. Bryar and Carr explain the set of ground-level practices that ensure these are translated into action and flow through all aspects of the business. Working Backwards is a practical guidebook and a corporate narrative, filled with the authors’ in-the-room recollections of what “Being Amazonian” is like and how it has affected their personal and professional lives. They demonstrate that success on Amazon’s scale is not achieved by the genius of any single leader, but rather through commitment to and execution of a set of well-defined, rigorously-executed principles and practices—shared here for the very first time. A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

30 review for Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest So, I actually haven't read that many books about business management-- most "business" books I read are about the history of tech and how human psychology influences consumer behavior-- so I'm not sure if this is a shining beacon of knowledge in its genre. I do know that while reading WORKING BACKWARDS, I was smacked with an idea of something I can do to improve my own work ethic, so that was cool. That said, it does seem to be more of Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest So, I actually haven't read that many books about business management-- most "business" books I read are about the history of tech and how human psychology influences consumer behavior-- so I'm not sure if this is a shining beacon of knowledge in its genre. I do know that while reading WORKING BACKWARDS, I was smacked with an idea of something I can do to improve my own work ethic, so that was cool. That said, it does seem to be more of a guide for managers and directors (think high level) and less a guide for people who might be lower-level managers/leads who don't directly impact the decisions of their company on the every day. My favorite portions were actually the promised "stories and secrets from inside Amazon" because it was interesting to get that inside look at the Big Scary Company from which I order all my books. I'm old enough that I actually remember when it JUST sold books (and CDs). I liked reading about the growing pains, the decisions behind some of the major decisions they made, what they learned from their failures (Unbox), and those brief snippets of Jeff Bezos doing his Important CEO Things by asking all of the tough questions. Another favorite portion of mine was when the two executives break down the development of some of Amazon's key features. OBVIOUSLY my favorite was about the Kindle, which I think is great. When I was working a minimum wage job, I wanted to blog about books like all of the cool kids out there, but I couldn't afford to buy shiny paperbacks fresh off the shelves. Waiting for ebook sales of Kindle books made reading new(ish) books REALLY affordable. Their prescient observation that digital was the way of the future when physical media was still selling well and comfortable was quite lucrative for them (and also, I love my Kindle-- it really is just like a book iPod). I also liked the story about Prime and how they found away to get around people's biggest deterrent in ordering online in the first place: shipping $$$. Free shipping is great. Vast swaths of this book really didn't apply to me, but I still found it really interesting and I just skimmed the parts that were of less interest. I do want to again issue the caveat that this is first and foremost a book for people working in business (specifically tech business), and if you're not in management or you don't know much about tech, you're going to be sad because there really aren't enough "secrets" in here to tide over a dilettante. I also-- and the authors agree, based on their afternote-- want to issue another caveat that not all of the approaches in here are going to work for every company. Case in point: I love my PowerPoint slides and no big shot is going to convince me otherwise. *snarl* That said, this book was way more fun than I thought it would be and is very accessible and down-to-earth for what it is! Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I really wanted to finish this book and write the review before it was published, so I was trying to rush through it, but the thing is... it was too good to rush through! I had to slow down and take it all in. Trust me when I tell you this book is excellent. No one can dispute that Amazon is a hugely successful company. It is known. Colin and Bill help explain what it is to be "Amazonian" by working "backwards". You don't even have to work in tech to use some of the strategies and techniques the I really wanted to finish this book and write the review before it was published, so I was trying to rush through it, but the thing is... it was too good to rush through! I had to slow down and take it all in. Trust me when I tell you this book is excellent. No one can dispute that Amazon is a hugely successful company. It is known. Colin and Bill help explain what it is to be "Amazonian" by working "backwards". You don't even have to work in tech to use some of the strategies and techniques they describe. I work in marketing for a yeast manufacturer and several of these ideas would really help us innovate more, in less time, while making our customers happier. Using a 6-page project brief in place of a tired PowerPoint presentation to present your ideas. Writing the press release *before* you start to design your next product. Changing your hiring strategy to slow down and really get the right people for your company and culture, even in the face of urgency. Moving to single-threaded leader-run autonomous teams. So many of these - seemingly backward - ideas are what led to the now-unstoppable success of Amazon, and many of them are relevant in almost any industry. As a business strategy book, it was actually very interesting; not dry at all. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Amazon, and a customer of many of their services. I am also fairly critical of corporate fairy tales. This book was well written, showing flaws as well as successes, and was realistic and succinct. Highly recommended. Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for this ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sri Shivananda

    There are various things about the ways of working at Amazon I have only heard as headlines. This book was great to understand practices like bar-raisers, pr-faq, 6-pagers, long-term mindset, single-threaded leadership, failing fast, optimizing input metrics, and more - all expressed through the lens of how programs like kindle, prime, fire phone, prime video, and aws were executed. Scaling execution, excellence, and leadership take a principled and deliberate approach to ways of working. Repeat There are various things about the ways of working at Amazon I have only heard as headlines. This book was great to understand practices like bar-raisers, pr-faq, 6-pagers, long-term mindset, single-threaded leadership, failing fast, optimizing input metrics, and more - all expressed through the lens of how programs like kindle, prime, fire phone, prime video, and aws were executed. Scaling execution, excellence, and leadership take a principled and deliberate approach to ways of working. Repeatable rhythms and rituals can be created with mental models and cultural artifacts. This book shares how this execution culture was cultivated at Amazon over the years.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    What a wonderful business book. Unlike many books that claim to be for business, this one hits the mark. It is not just a fluffy story about how great everyone was on the team and how they all made the best decision, every time. Colin and Bill give you real life processes and options for making decision, building teams and how the teams can be run. If you are like me, you will end up taking notes as you read this book. If you want or need assistance with growing your business or career, read thi What a wonderful business book. Unlike many books that claim to be for business, this one hits the mark. It is not just a fluffy story about how great everyone was on the team and how they all made the best decision, every time. Colin and Bill give you real life processes and options for making decision, building teams and how the teams can be run. If you are like me, you will end up taking notes as you read this book. If you want or need assistance with growing your business or career, read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    Working Backwards is a key concept in the Amazon development process. This involves thinking of what the end customer experience should be and working backwards from there to design and develop towards that end result. In this book, Working Backwards, two former Amazon VP's discuss Working Backwards and several other key ideas to what it means to be "Amazonian". They believe these concepts are a big part of Amazon's success. They cover everything from hiring practices, how they conduct meetings, Working Backwards is a key concept in the Amazon development process. This involves thinking of what the end customer experience should be and working backwards from there to design and develop towards that end result. In this book, Working Backwards, two former Amazon VP's discuss Working Backwards and several other key ideas to what it means to be "Amazonian". They believe these concepts are a big part of Amazon's success. They cover everything from hiring practices, how they conduct meetings, and more. This was a very interesting read. I have worked at enterprise software companies where we have done things much differently than what is described in this book. It was cool to get a peek inside of Amazon and how they operate. Amazon may often be bashed for being a monopoly and crushing small business, but this book did help show how they were able to achieve such dominance. I recommend this book to anyone who works in hi-tech or is interested in the hi-tech market as an outside observer. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mindaugas Mozūras

    The best way to fail at inventing something is by making it somebody's part-time job. Working Backwards was written by two former Amazon executives. A lot of these sorts of books are not very practical. They focus more on the stories and achievements, and the helpful and insightful nuggets are few and far between. I had a much more positive experience with Working Backwards. A worthy disclaimer is that I work in a leadership role at a marketplace company. The book is divided into two parts. The f The best way to fail at inventing something is by making it somebody's part-time job. Working Backwards was written by two former Amazon executives. A lot of these sorts of books are not very practical. They focus more on the stories and achievements, and the helpful and insightful nuggets are few and far between. I had a much more positive experience with Working Backwards. A worthy disclaimer is that I work in a leadership role at a marketplace company. The book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the leadership principles and various practices at Amazon. I've loved this part; it gave me insight into how Amazon is run and gave me ideas I'd like to try out at my current job. I found this part very practical - more so than I expected. The second part is a collection of four stories to illustrate the principles and practices at work. I liked two of the four (Kindle & Prime), I wasn't moved by the other two (Prime Video & AWS). To be fair, I already had more knowledge of how Prime Video & AWS came to be. Overall, I've enjoyed it and would recommend Working Backwards to anyone looking for insights into how one of the largest companies is run.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wang

    I been at Amazon for 5 years. I learned more than I expected. The history of how various Mechanisms were invented often provides you with a deeper insight as to what problems they were designed to solve. Some of these techniques are so effective at eliminating some problems it so hard to understand why you are doing them.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    I had no idea that Amazon's culture was so unique and such an integral part of the company before reading this book. The authors were two early high-level Amazon execs, and they do a great job of explaining the culture and mechanisms that make Amazon unique (first half of the book) and giving examples of Amazon's uniqueness in action (second half of the book). Chapter 1: Delight the Customer Takeaways: 1. Customer obsession is KEY. It’s more important than anything else. (Long-term shareholder valu I had no idea that Amazon's culture was so unique and such an integral part of the company before reading this book. The authors were two early high-level Amazon execs, and they do a great job of explaining the culture and mechanisms that make Amazon unique (first half of the book) and giving examples of Amazon's uniqueness in action (second half of the book). Chapter 1: Delight the Customer Takeaways: 1. Customer obsession is KEY. It’s more important than anything else. (Long-term shareholder value is fortunately aligned with pleasing customers). 2. Ensure that financial incentives are aligned with desired results. In particular, you must make sure to not disincentivize collaboration and long-term thinking. 3. Operational excellence is a MUST. There’s no magic formula for this beyond planning well, working hard, and taking responsibility/ownership. 4. Leadership principles must be enforced via mechanisms and baked into every process/aspect of the company. Chapter 2: Hiring This chapter is a great "how-to" for creating a decent hiring process. Takeaways: 1. What makes a good process: it’s simple to understand, can be easily taught to new people, does not depend on scarce resources (such as a single individual), and has a feedback loop to ensure continual improvement. a. The most interesting aspect to me is the feedback loop for improvement – the Core Bar Raisers train Bar Raisers, who in turn use the debriefing meetings as coaching sessions to engrain the process into interviewers. 2. The 14 Leadership Principles seem like a great way to assess candidates / maintain a corporate culture (as far as that is possible). 3. Hiring is really critical, and really hard, so it makes sense to devote significant resources to it and train a corps of “Bar Raisers” who are voluntary experts in the process. 4. Hiring is complicated, so you need to make sure that you develop a good process, maintain metrics on it, and learn the process really well. Chapter 3: Organization Takeaways: 1. Organizing different capabilities into independent units is a must. 2. Building a company is about more than building a product – it’s about building an organization. The organization itself is a type of ‘product’ that must be experimented with, iterated on, documented, and improved. Chapter 4: Communication Takeaways: 1. You need to make the most of your meetings. They need structure, they need to facilitate efficient information transfer between the presenters and the audience, they need to engage the audience. 2. Narratives help to accomplish these things. a. Written narratives are much more information dense than slides. b. The silent reading at the beginning of the meetings prevents interruptions. c. They allow the efficient communication of complex ideas. d. They don’t depend on presenters’ speaking skills, and their form allows them to be easily distributed and edited. 3. This meeting structure seems good: a. 1. Silent reading of the narrative (1/3 of meeting) b. 2. Get feedback from everyone in the room c. 3. Allow questions/discussion d. Must record all feedback and questions 4. What do you want to accomplish in a meeting? a. Force the presenters to think deeply about what they are presenting. Writing a narrative accomplishes this. b. Enable the audience to understand the idea and to provide useful feedback. 5. Narratives are iterative processes. They are also difficult. Writers must practice writing them, and audience members must practice giving feedback, over many cycles. Chapter 5: Working Backwards Takeaways: 1. The PR/FAQ format itself sounds kind of gimmicky, but it’s as good as anything at achieving a great goal – forcing the team to focus on the customer while also enforcing due diligence on the business/product/tech development side. 2. The PR/FAQ format also has the same benefits of the narratives discussed in the previous chapter – it’s a standardized format that’s accessible to anyone in the organization; it’s a complete record of the idea that can be easily passed along, reviewed, and edited; and its written format enables a richer narrative and higher information density than a presentation. 3. There are three parts of the PR/FAQ: the PR (1 page, forces a perspective shift to the customer). The external FAQ (continues to force a customer perspective). The internal FAQ (due diligence on the business/product/tech side). Chapter 6: Metrics Takeaways: 1. Running a company is eerily similar to setting up an optimization problem. You need to get the reward function just right, otherwise your optimization problem is going to give you unwanted results. It’s a little more complicated than this though. Although the output metrics are the final ‘reward signal’, since you don’t have direct control over these metrics, you have to define ‘controllable input metrics’ which are basically proxy reward signals for your employees. It is a difficult iterative process to make sure that the controllable input metrics are properly aligned with your overall goals. 2. They suggest using the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) process for making metrics. 3. The Weekly Business Review meetings are important for evaluating the metrics and using the metrics to detect anomalies/bad trends in the operation of the business. The authors give a lot of guidance on how to structure these meetings to be productive. 4. Looking at anecdotes and exceptions is a crucial complement to looking at the metrics. The anecdotes and exceptions are a reality check that help to expose flaws or oversights in the metrics. The second half of the book is about how the Kindle, Prime, Prime Video, and AWS were developed. It was pretty cool to hear about these success stories, since they're a big part of what differentiates Amazon from other tech companies (the ability to consistently make successful new products). Kindle: The decision to leap into hardware creation for the Kindle was huge for Amazon, but it was carefully planned - they realized that they couldn't differentiate themselves from other e-book sellers based on their selection or price, as they had with physical books, so they had to differentiate via either their content creation process or the reading experience, and they chose the reading experience. Next, they didn't compromise on devising and following through on features that would make the Kindle a truly great reading experience - the E-Ink display, the free cellular internet collection that allowed you to download books from anywhere, etc. Prime: The development of Prime was earlier and more haphazard than their other examples, but it's a good example of the Amazon process. They brainstormed a ton of different ideas, most of which were failures or only partial successes, before they finally found the winning formula with Prime. Furthermore, they weren't afraid to pivot even after devoting significant resources to a given strategy. The introduction of Prime guaranteed that Amazon's previous fulfillment strategy (building large fulfillment centers close to distribution centers) would become obsolete (they would need to build many smaller fulfillment centers closer to customers in order to have free two-day shipping), but they went ahead with it full steam anyway. Furthermore, they did it during the busy holiday season when they could easily have claimed they were too busy with other things to create this huge new feature. Prime Video: This was the most interesting story for me because it was so full of failure. Amazon's first attempt at video was Amazon Unbox, which was a disaster. Then they made Amazon Video on Demand, which also was not a success. Then they made Amazon Instant Video, which also didn't really go anywhere. Finally, they folded their video service into Prime, which made it a bigger success. Furthermore, they finally decided to go from being just a video aggregator to being a content creator and a device maker. On the device side, this line of thinking led them to develop the Fire Tablet and the Echo. On the content side, they have made a number of hit shows for Prime Video. This example really shows how persistence pays off, yet I think the authors don't highlight the causes of their failures enough. The authors mention that their team was almost entirely MBAs and engineers and no Hollywood people, and some of the key insights came from the rare team members with Hollywood experience - it seems pretty boneheaded to me to not hire more people with relevant industry experience. Also, it took them forever to stop being a video aggregator and instead go after content creation and device making. And finally, it took them forever to realize that the streaming business model was a game changer. They could have saved probably $100m's if they had had some more humility and had spent more time on self-reflection. AWS: This chapter was disappointingly short. But AWS clearly shows just how far-sighted Amazon's leadership was. AWS was initially just a service for querying product info for Amazon's referral program, and it eventually become like an API for Amazon's web store. I think it took true insight to realize that instead of just providing an API to Amazon's web store, they could provide an API to Amazon's actual servers and computing power and that this would become an enormous market. While reading this book, I was getting a lot of Julius Caesar vibes from Jeff Bezos and Amazon. When I was reading Caesar's Gallic Wars and Civil Wars (basically yearly reports of his military activities), I was amazed by how Caesar was able to successfully operate in literally every theater of the Mediterranean in every type of battle in every battle condition against every type of foe. Amazon strikes me as a company with a similar capability - an ability to successfully operate in almost any business. Not only do they have that ability, but they are not afraid to act on it and make big bets. The themes that I picked up on throughout the book were that Amazon succeeds because for them, the company/organization is one of their products, so they are constantly scrutinizing their processes, developing mechanisms to make their success repeatable and to prevent failures, and making long-term investments in both their businesses and their (high-level) employees. Furthermore, if you're really serious about something being part of your company culture, you need to bake it into everyday life at the company. For example, incorporating the 14 Leadership Principles into the hiring process forces the interviewees to use them in evaluating candidates. PowerPoint slides are literally banned for most important meetings. Salary compensation is capped at $160k so that most compensation is in the form of stock. Etc etc. Leadership Principles are corny talking points until you bake them into every aspect and mechanism of the company, and then they suddenly become a way of life. The one thing that surprises me is that Goodreads can have such a god-awful UI despite the fact that it's owned by Amazon.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lanre Dahunsi

    In Working Backwards, Collin and Bill share insights. stories and the principles that drove the success of Amazon to become one of the world’s most valuable brands. The Title of the book working back is derived from amazon’s product development process: working backwards from the desired customer experience. The authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer In Working Backwards, Collin and Bill share insights. stories and the principles that drove the success of Amazon to become one of the world’s most valuable brands. The Title of the book working back is derived from amazon’s product development process: working backwards from the desired customer experience. The authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. Bryar and Carr explain the set of ground-level practices that ensure these are translated into action and flow through all aspects of the business. Working Backwards is a practical guidebook and a corporate narrative, filled with the authors’ in-the-room recollections of what “Being Amazonian” is like and how it has affected their personal and professional lives. They demonstrate that success on Amazon’s scale is not achieved by the genius of any single leader, but rather through a commitment to and execution of a set of well-defined, rigorously executed principles and practices. Amazon according to Jeff Bezos: In a talk at the 2018 Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Jeff described Amazon this way: “Our culture is four things: customer obsession instead of competitor obsession; willingness to think long term, with a longer investment horizon than most of our peers; eagerness to invent, which of course goes hand in hand with failure; and then, finally, taking professional pride in operational excellence. In 2015 Amazon became the company that reached $100 billion in annual sales faster than any other in the world. PLANT MANY SEEDS “Jeff often used an analogy in those days when describing our efforts to innovate and build new businesses. “We need to plant many seeds,” he would say, “because we don’t know which one of those seeds will grow into a mighty oak.” It was an apt analogy. The oak is one of the sturdiest and longest-living trees in the forest. Each tree produces thousands of acorns for every one tree that eventually rises to the sky.” Part One: Being Amazonian The Bar Raiser Urgency bias: the tendency to overlook a candidate’s flaws because you are overwhelmed with work and need bodies. The Bar Raiser provides teams with methods to make the strongest hires efficiently and quickly, but without cutting corners. single-threaded leadership The basic premise is, for each initiative or project, there is a single leader whose focus is that project and that project alone, and that leader oversees teams of people whose attention is similarly focused on that one project. A single person, unencumbered by competing responsibilities, owns a single major initiative and heads up a separable, largely autonomous team to deliver its goals. Working Backward “Working Backwards from the desired customer experience. Before we start building, we write a Press Release to clearly define how the new idea or product will benefit customers, and we create a list of Frequently Asked Questions to resolve the tough issues up front. We carefully and critically study and modify each of these documents until we’re satisfied before we move on to the next step.” The Working Backwards process is all about starting from the customer perspective and following a step-by-step process where you question assumptions relentlessly until you have a complete understanding of what you want to build. It’s about seeking truth. Chapter 1 Building Blocks: Leadership Principles and Mechanisms What distinguishes Amazon is that its Leadership Principles are deeply ingrained in every significant process and function at the company. In many cases, the principles dictate a way of thinking or doing work that is different from the way that most companies operate. As a result, newly hired Amazonians go through a challenging multimonth period of learning and adapting to these new methods. 14 Amazon’s Leadership Principles Over the course of many years, Amazon has put in place mechanisms to ensure that the Leadership Principles translate into action. Three foundational mechanisms are The annual planning process; The S-Team goals process (the S-Team consists of the senior vice presidents and direct reports to Jeff Bezos); and Amazon’s compensation plan, which aligns incentives with what’s best for customers and the company over the long term. Amazon relies heavily on autonomous, single-threaded teams. These teams keep the company nimble, moving quickly with a minimum of external friction, but their autonomy must be paired with precise goal-setting.to align each team’s independent plans with the company’s overarching goals. Chapter 2 : Hiring “Unstructured hiring decision meetings can give rise to groupthink, confirmation bias, and other cognitive traps that feel right at the time but produce poor decisions.” The Amazon Bar Raiser program The Amazon Bar Raiser program has the goal of creating a scalable, repeatable, formal process for consistently making appropriate and successful hiring decisions. Like all good processes, it’s simple to understand, can be easily taught to new people, does not depend on scarce resources (such as a single individual), and has a feedback loop to ensure continual improvement. The Bar Raiser hiring process became one of the earliest and most successful components of the being Amazonian toolkit. “Amazon’s Bar Raiser process was designed to provide that framework, minimize the variability of ad hoc hiring processes, and improve results.” STAR “The method that Amazon interviewers use for drilling down goes by the acronym STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result): “What was the situation?” “What were you tasked with?” “What actions did you take?” “What was the result?” The Bar Raiser The Bar Raiser is involved in every interview loop and ensures the process is followed and bad hiring decisions are avoided. They are also there to set a good example for other interviewers. In addition to conducting one of the interviews, the Bar Raiser coaches others on interviewing techniques, asks probing questions in the debrief, makes sure that personal biases do not affect the hiring decision, and determines whether the candidate meets or exceeds the hiring bar set by the company. Two-Pizza Team The two-pizza team, so named because the teams would be no larger than the number of people that could be adequately fed by two large pizzas. Chapter 4: Communicating Six Pager Document At Amazon, after a brief exchange of greetings and chitchat, everyone sits at the table, and the room goes completely silent. Silent, as in not a word. The reason for the silence? A six-page document that everyone must read before discussion begins. Amazon relies far more on the written word to develop and communicate ideas than most companies, and this difference makes for a huge competitive advantage. Amazon uses two main forms of narrative. The first is known as the “six-pager.” It is used to describe, review, or propose just about any type of idea, process, or business. The second narrative form is the PR/FAQ. This one is specifically linked to the Working Backwards process for new product development. Chapter 5: Working Backwards Working Backwards is a systematic way to vet ideas and create new products. Its key tenet is to start by defining the customer experience, then iteratively work backwards from that point until the team achieves clarity of thought around what to build. Its principal tool is a second form of written narrative called the PR/FAQ, short for press release/frequently asked questions. Chapter 6 Metrics: Manage Your Inputs, Not Your Outputs The share price is what Amazon calls an “output metric.” The CEO, and companies in general, have very little ability to directly control output metrics. What’s really important is to focus on the “controllable input metrics,” the activities you directly control, which ultimately affect output metrics such as share price. Weekly Business Review (WBR). The purpose of the WBR was to provide a more comprehensive lens through which to see the business. The WBR is constructed and implemented so the company can improve each and every week. It has a fractal nature that allows us to easily adapt to different situations, from small groups to billion-dollar businesses. Small teams, business category lines, and the entire online retail business all have their own WBRs. Input vs Output Metrics Input metrics track things like selection, price, or convenience—factors that Amazon can control through actions such as adding items to the catalog, lowering cost so prices can be lowered, or positioning inventory to facilitate faster delivery to customers. Output metrics—things like orders, revenue, and profit—are important, but they generally can’t be directly manipulated in a sustainable manner over the long term. Input metrics measure things that, done right, bring about the desired results in your output metrics. Part Two: The Invention Machine at Work Failing Forward To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of the invention but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there. Thus for Amazon, its less successful inventions, such as Fire Phone, are valuable. The same is true of the off-target early iterations of later successes, such as Amazon Unbox, which evolved into Prime Video, and Amazon Auctions and zShops, which developed into Amazon Marketplace. These “failures” are important parts of the company’s story, both as precursors to later successes and as evidence that experimentation is happening. Being Amazonian Being Amazonian means approaching invention with long-term thinking and customer obsession, ensuring that the Leadership Principles guide the way, and deploying the practices to drive execution. Long-term thinking levers our existing abilities and lets us do new things we couldn’t otherwise contemplate. – Jeff Bezos Slow Down You can’t wind the clock back, replay the experiment, and see what would have happened if we had built and launched these services quickly without knowing some of the truths we discovered using Working Backwards. However, though there were still some post-launch maintenance issues and outages, the performance and rapid customer adoption speak for themselves. Based on my experience of going through the Working Backwards process with Jeff for well over a dozen different product teams across AWS, Digital, and other services, “I can say confidently that the extra time we spent slowing down to uncover the necessary truths was ultimately a faster path to a large and successful business. The results speak for themselves. Amazon has large viable digital devices and media businesses. And, as mentioned in the introduction, AWS reached the $10 billion annual revenue milestone faster than Amazon the online retailer.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kintan

    Colin and Bill have thoughtfully extracted applicable insights from decades of experience at Amazon and have presented them in a very approachable format. I enjoyed the 1-2 punch approach of the book. While the first section introduces key concepts and mechanisms, the second section builds upon it by discussing concrete examples of familiar products. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to take a customer-centric approach to build products and organizations.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Date reviewed: October 21, 2020 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the aut Date reviewed: October 21, 2020 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. Working Backwards is an insider's breakdown of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. Colin started at Amazon in 1998; Bill joined in 1999. In "Working Backwards", these two long-serving Amazon executives reveal and codify the principles and practices that drive the success of one of the most extraordinary companies the world has ever known. With twenty-seven years of Amazon experience between them, much of it in the early aughts—a period of unmatched innovation that brought products and services including Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Studios, and Amazon Web Services to life—Bryar and Carr offer unprecedented access to the Amazon way as it was refined, articulated, and proven to be repeatable, scalable, and adaptable. With keen analysis and practical steps for applying it at your own company—no matter the size—the authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. Bryar and Carr explain the set of ground-level practices that ensure these are translated into action and flow through all aspects of the business. Working Backwards is a practical guidebook and a corporate narrative, filled with the authors’ in-the-room recollections of what “Being Amazonian” is like and how it has affected their personal and professional lives. They demonstrate that success on Amazon’s scale is not achieved by the genius of any single leader, but rather through a commitment to and execution of a set of well-defined, rigorously-executed principles and practices—shared here for the very first time. Amazon is my jam - I buy so much stuff from there (but I do shop locally as my dad was a small business owner) and I buy it because, for example, because the cat food is 1/3rd the price of the local supermarket! I always have said that Amazon is not a STOR, it is a delivery system for seller's goods ... do you agree?? This is a technical read, but an enjoyable read - but it is not for the average reader: it is a business book. Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Jeff Bezos’ Missionaries Amazon is an astonishing success and Jeff Bezos’ role in that growth is undisputed. This book, written by two former executives who joined Amazon four and five years after its founding, is intended to guide others on how to be an “Amazonian,” a term that sounds a bit cult-like. The first two-thirds of the book explain Amazon guiding principles in leadership, recruiting, organizational theory, selling ideas internally, and metrics. Some concepts are good but not too surpris Jeff Bezos’ Missionaries Amazon is an astonishing success and Jeff Bezos’ role in that growth is undisputed. This book, written by two former executives who joined Amazon four and five years after its founding, is intended to guide others on how to be an “Amazonian,” a term that sounds a bit cult-like. The first two-thirds of the book explain Amazon guiding principles in leadership, recruiting, organizational theory, selling ideas internally, and metrics. Some concepts are good but not too surprising. Others are more thought-provoking, such as: Manage your inputs (selection, price, convenience) but not your outputs (orders, revenues, profit), since you can control the inputs and the outputs will naturally follow. Work backwards from the desired customer experience. For me, a more interesting part of the book was to read the history of how, under Jeff Bezos’ leadership, a company that started as an online book seller expanded, successfully, in so many directions. Unconstrained by a brick and mortar network of retail stores, Amazon concentrated on leadership in online fulfillment. This online sales model could then be expanded beyond books to other products. This was exceptionally well executed but up to that point Amazon was staying in its lane. Extraordinarily, over its history Bezos has pushed the boundaries of Amazon’s business, fearlessly unconstrained by lack of expertise if there was an opportunity to expand into new markets. A good example is the development of the Kindle. Amazon had never designed a physical product. Yet Bezos believed that printed books would be replaced by those that could be downloaded and read over a handheld device. Conventionally, Amazon might have struck a deal with a company that had experience designing and manufacturing handheld devices, such as Sony or Apple. But Bezos wanted an Amazon proprietary product. Much like Steve Jobs, he pushed the envelope and challenged his developers to create something superior to what others might have designed. Kindle allowed the download of a book directly, rather than through a computer. It was easy to read under low light conditions. Although its development was outside Amazon’s traditional comfort zone, it was a great success and solidified the company’s dominance of a new market. Similarly, Bezos recognized how important free shipping was as a competitive advantage. There were various experiments until the launch of Amazon Prime, which contributed immediately to Amazon’s cash flow, made it possible to simplify shipping cost choices, and allowed Amazon to achieve economies of scale in shipping that gained it competitive advantage. Most important, Amazon Prime encouraged repeat shopping and incentivized members to visit its site first. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is now a major contributor to Amazon’s profits. The company invested enormous sums in cloud computing to manage inventory, keep track of customer orders, and to promote product categories of interest to individual customers. This capability was extended to third party sellers using Amazon’s order and distribution infrastructure. Software developers were courted. Having developed cloud computing and storage expertise on a massive scale for its own use, Bezos realized that this huge infrastructure investment meant that Amazon could successfully compete with companies such as IBM that were thought to have the competitive advantage in this fast-growing market. Cloud computing and storage has become a huge and profitable business for Amazon. AWS is attractive even to very large corporate customers. By outsourcing to Amazon, companies can offload decisions about how to manage massive amounts of data, tap into how best to interface with customers and suppliers, and need not concern themselves with how to scale capacity to meet future needs. At Amazon, AWS has become a profit engine. The book contains modest admissions of failure, such as a missed opportunity to achieve preeminence in online distribution of music and video. Apple and Netflix are formidable competitors and in these markets Amazon is strong but not dominant. Left unexplored are issues that don’t fit the authors’ cult-like devotion to being “Amazonians.” An objective analysis of Amazon’s business standards and practices should not ignore concerns about some of the company’s business practices such as allegations of unfair competition, especially with its third-party sellers, or issues regarding workplace conditions for the lower-level employees who constitute the vast majority of its workforce. This is in many ways a great company and an extraordinary success story. But Amazon is not above criticism and readers will have to look elsewhere for such perspective.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mikal

    Working Backwards is an excellence synopsis of the habits and practices inside of Amazon. I've never worked at Amazon but having worked alongside, coached, and mentored a few Amazonians the descriptions within resonate as the history behind a few of the habits and practices. What is particularly helpful is the explanation of the toolkits of Narratives and PRFAQs. These have become common product manager tools--but at each new company or time joining, it's tough to explain a clear example around t Working Backwards is an excellence synopsis of the habits and practices inside of Amazon. I've never worked at Amazon but having worked alongside, coached, and mentored a few Amazonians the descriptions within resonate as the history behind a few of the habits and practices. What is particularly helpful is the explanation of the toolkits of Narratives and PRFAQs. These have become common product manager tools--but at each new company or time joining, it's tough to explain a clear example around the goals and how to use each, unless it's been previously instilled at a company. I've simply referred people to chapters from this book for examples presently. What's also helpful is the why--many people view Amazon culture from the sound bites and excerpts passed around and take away--be insanely data driven and/or view this process as a means to never fail. What's clear if you've studied Amazon's history is that their failure rate on MAJOR initiatives is actually quite high. However, as a learning organization they iterate through the marketplace to find success. So while the toolkit seems to most inspire the risk intolerant--the toolkit is actually a toolkit for embarking on high risk projects. Since Amazon's success and communication of it's methodologies is here to stay--I believe this book will have enduring value alongside other books from Amazonian's such as No Service is the Best Service. I do find that the structure and ease of reference and incorporation is sharper than The Google Way. One final point--while the authors have made clear their advocacy of the Bar Raiser program, their appendix recommendations for interviews is actually highly problematic. Excerpt: Q: What is your most significant professional accomplishment? A: Biz dev deal that we did with Blue Corp. while I was at Red Corp. While I was too junior to lead the strategy elements for the deal, the strategic output of the deal was really big for us—brought several other players like Yellow.com to our doorstep to do similar deals. Q: So what was your role? A: I was one of three members of the deal team; me, the VP of Product Development, and a guy from legal. My role was relationship manager, so when business owners had specific needs, they would bring them to me and I would execute them with Blue Corp. ... While I probed multiple times here, he didn’t give me any evidence of something substantial that he had personally done on this deal. He was proud of the strategic import of the deal, but admitted at the outset that he had nothing to do with setting deal strategy. I was then looking for him to give me specific evidence of tough hurdles or negotiation tactics that he had employed in cranking out this huge agreement (or at least evidence of really hard work), but he didn’t volunteer anything. I was psyched when he first started to tell me about this, thinking that he has great experience in putting together big deals, but it sounded like the VP and legal team members did all the driving. Bryar, Colin; Carr, Bill. Working Backwards (pp. 265-266). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Here in there example of good feedback--they didn't highlight just how much guessing they do. For a machine like Amazon with a recruiting pipeline dedicated to getting people in the door you can tolerate a healthy amount of false negatives (good candidates who interview poorly) at most companies you can't. Here if you have a question that's important and you're not getting the answer to--tell the candidate or ask! For example: "Thinking about your role in the deal--why was this a great professional accomplishment for you?"--you may surface a hidden reason--OR "what is your greatest professional accomplish where you played a leading role"?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a Goodreads review. They cited my review of Radical Candor as an indication that I might like this book. I find that connection odd, now that I've read this Amazon book, because the themes are very different. Radical Candor is about working with the people on your team and how to do that in a way that promotes engagement and personal improvement. Working Backwards is about improving business productivity through products, not people, and is I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a Goodreads review. They cited my review of Radical Candor as an indication that I might like this book. I find that connection odd, now that I've read this Amazon book, because the themes are very different. Radical Candor is about working with the people on your team and how to do that in a way that promotes engagement and personal improvement. Working Backwards is about improving business productivity through products, not people, and is about profits not teams. So I don't think the books are comparable except to say they both feature well-know major companies and would be found in the business section of a bookstore. The same person may want to read both, but it would be for different reasons and goals. My review will focus on Working Backwards on its own then, and not in comparison to Radical Candor. I see this book as first a historical text explaining why and how Amazon became the mega star that it is. From a business development perspective, it's interesting. The authors claim that the principles they lay out that led Amazon to grow so well and quickly can be applied to any business. Yes, but they cannot be applied to every business. The distinction is this: it took a very specific style of running a company to make Amazon a giant, and that style will not work in every setting for everyone. The leadership principles they lay out are solid, and many of the concepts can be adapted to other companies. The PR/FAQ concept of writing the press release and getting it right before developing the product is a great idea. So is the 6-page narrative in lieu of a powerpoint to require detailed thinking about a project that everyone can digest and critique. I like the principles behind the Bar Raiser hiring concept. However, the frugality, the workaholism, the intensity of "get 'er done yesterday" pace of work, the very long term investment rewards to employees will not work for everyone. Nor should they -- they meet the needs of some, but not everyone wants that kind of worklife. What is absent from the book is the human side of Amazon. There is no discussion about how people felt about being pulled off their well-deserved and needed vacation on day one to return to the office to begin another high intensity project. There was no talk about how the two pizza teams develop their norms and communicate about their projects when there is dissenting opinions. The Senior VPs etc are rewarded with stock options for strong performance, but what about the people working in the Fulfillment Centres? Those places are only mentioned occasionally and in passing, but what are the working conditions there, other than "go faster"? The authors mention that even the top brass take turns working in all areas of the company, but other than to fine-tune process, what do they learn about empathy for the people in those jobs? They're not long-term jobs, picking and packing in a warehouse. They're the jobs of young healthy people. Given that some of those centres are considering forming unions because they're unhappy with working conditions highlights how little is said about that aspect of Amazon in this book. So it's a book about and for the top brass of a company about how to squeeze more juice from a lemon/fruit to make an even better drink. It's interesting to learn about the evolution of what are now very well known Amazon services, and there are business take-aways. It's not going to see the same popularity as Radical Candor, however.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julian Dunn

    I give five stars to very few business books, but Working Backwards is outstanding. My company has just hired a chief product officer from Amazon and he's decided to send a copy of this book to everyone, but I got a jump start and borrowed it from the library. Now I must admit, normally when executives do something like send a book to everyone of his/her staff, that book is usually something that could have been a blog post (Product-Led Growth) or a TED Talk (Sinek's Start With Why). Or, it's a I give five stars to very few business books, but Working Backwards is outstanding. My company has just hired a chief product officer from Amazon and he's decided to send a copy of this book to everyone, but I got a jump start and borrowed it from the library. Now I must admit, normally when executives do something like send a book to everyone of his/her staff, that book is usually something that could have been a blog post (Product-Led Growth) or a TED Talk (Sinek's Start With Why). Or, it's a book like Good To Great, whose supposed conclusions about what make amazing companies doesn't stand the test of time (exhibit 1: Circuit City). Working Backwards is none of that. Regardless of what you might think about Amazon, there's no question that a laser-like focus on engineering (and I really do mean engineering) positive business outcomes and organizing the entire company around excellence and long-term thinking has reaped incredible rewards for Jeff Bezos -- and the authors, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr, who must be rich beyond their wildest dreams at this point. Sure, a lot of the tools in the book (even by Bryar and Carr's admission) are derivative, like a focus on Six Sigma's DMAIC (define, measure, improve, analyze and control) or its simpler counterpart, the Deming cycle (plan / do / check / act). So what's different about Working Backwards? The fact that it's a no-nonsense approach to building outstanding businesses, starting with radical candor and a willingness to confront a lot of the pro forma bullshit that hobbles innovation inside companies, like product managers hiding behind fancy but empty PowerPoints. It would be easy enough to just criticize these things that everyone knows is true inside a company, but Bryar and Carr offer real solutions from inside Amazon, like the six-pager narrative format that replaced PowerPoint, so revolutionary at the time because it challenged corporate slideware orthodoxy, but relatively well-understood to be superior today. The same goes for metrics. Controllable input metrics, or even "working backwards" itself, is really strategy maps by a different name. But it's amazing how many senior business executives or leaders don't understand the difference, as exemplified by the Fortune 500 CEO that the authors refer to who got excited about a $0.30 rise in his stock price the morning they met with him. Bryar and Carr give actionable advice on how to select metrics, review them regularly, and adjust not only behavior but the gathering and even definition of those metrics to hold business line leaders accountable to their performance. The authors finish out the book by saying that while they believe that, obviously, they believe many of the practices developed at Amazon are revolutionary, they also can't simply be grafted wholesale onto existing organizations. They even go so far as to state that they are sufficient but not necessary for success, as other very successful companies have different practices and culture from Amazon, sometimes wildly so. Nevertheless, Bryar and Carr's book represents a concisely-written, easy-to-apply set of business and management principles that provide an accessible jumping off point for any executive seeking to instill operational excellence in his or her organization. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rishabh Srivastava

    This was a summary of Amazon's operational principles, written by two senior insiders. The first half of the book lays out these principles, while the second half talks about how they were applied within the organization I found the first half super useful and well-written, but the second half was lacking. My main takeaways were: 1. Define operating principles for key leaders in your organization and make sure they stick to it 2. Ensure that you have a structured processing for hiring. In an interv This was a summary of Amazon's operational principles, written by two senior insiders. The first half of the book lays out these principles, while the second half talks about how they were applied within the organization I found the first half super useful and well-written, but the second half was lacking. My main takeaways were: 1. Define operating principles for key leaders in your organization and make sure they stick to it 2. Ensure that you have a structured processing for hiring. In an interview, if you ask inane questions like: “Tell me something about yourself that isn’t apparent by reading your résumé.” You might as well just say, “Look, I don’t know what I’m looking for or how to find it, so can you please help me out?” 3. Ensure that your leaders and key teams are responsible for doing one thing and one thing only. The best way to fail at inventing something is by making it somebody’s part-time job. Have separable teams with single-threaded leaders. Separable means almost as separable organizationally as APIs are for software. Single-threaded means they don’t work on anything else 4. Using narratives and the written word to develop and communicate ideas can help you identify flaws in ideas before you execute them. Don't rely on oral, power-point based presentations. Removing the natural variance in speaking skills and graphic design expertise can help you get to the innate quality of an idea (unaffected by the charisma or lack thereof of the presenter) quicker 5. Start with the desired customer experience when coming up with new product ideas. Start by defining the customer experience, then iteratively work backwards from that point until the team achieves clarity of thought around what to build. Create the press release and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for a product before you put any engineering effort into it 6. Don't try to optimise for output variables (like sales, or valuation). You can't control them. Instead, create a strong model of how variables you can control (input variables) map to the output variables. Then, optimise the input variables that you can actually control 7. Use data and dashboards effectively to keep track of matrics. With so many metrics to review, written narrative or explanatory notes would undercut the efficiency of the read-through. Instead, stick to charts, graphs, and data tables. 8. Outsourcing can often have devastating long-term implications. Much of the knowledge and know-how accrues in the minds and methods of the outsourcer. Never outsource critical IP or knowhow. Specially when you need to continually iterate on the product

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Lovato

    Working Backward helps readers look forward Posted on March 3, 2021 by michellelovatosbookreviews, world's first book color commentator, book reviews with a twist There are two game-changing business books I’ve read in the past decade that re-wired my business imagination: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, and now, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by 14-year-veteran Amazon leaders Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. Released Feb. 9 from Working Backward helps readers look forward Posted on March 3, 2021 by michellelovatosbookreviews, world's first book color commentator, book reviews with a twist There are two game-changing business books I’ve read in the past decade that re-wired my business imagination: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, and now, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by 14-year-veteran Amazon leaders Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. Released Feb. 9 from St. Martin’s Press, this is a fascinating account of two men’s “access to the Amazon way,” of doing business that solidified and stabilized the business jungle’s long-term success model. These two men helped Amazon achieve three magical business success tenents; creating a product that is “repeatable, scalable and adaptable.” Told in anecdotal style, Bryar and Carr share secrets and experiences that formed their personal and professional lives. These authors offer lessons learned from their on-the-ground experiences as leaders “Being Amazonian” within the massive company. “With keen analysis and practical steps for applying it at your own company – no matter the size – the authors illuminate how Amazon’s fourteen leadership principles inform decision-making at all levels and reveal how the company’s culture has been defined by four characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence,” publishing professionals write. Working Backwards is a thinking person’s book. It’s a focused read, or in my case, focused audio listen that is not to be taken on while wandering around backcountry roads in mid-December. Rather, it’s a book worthy of note-taking. It’s a book worthy of owning a hard copy and audio version so the reader can highlight and listen to its sage and valuable advice. I never expect to be like these two leaders in their dedication and understanding of the environment they helped raise to the top of the business pile. I know my future goals are focused more on my children and grandchildren than chopping down a rainforest of business. That does not mean, however, I cannot take this fascinating advice to heart, apply it to my success goals, and create a sharply focused, forward-thinking, creative, and practical legacy for my future. [email protected] [email protected] Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    I generally don’t like business management books - they tend to dress up simple/obvious maxims with lots of catchy buzzwords and snack-sized anecdotes, and aren’t necessarily well-written or insightful. This book does a bit of that, but I found it well-written, engaging, and grounded in the specific history of Amazon. If you were going to use a company as a benchmark for solid business practices, Amazon is a pretty good choice. They dominate two entirely different industries (online retail and cl I generally don’t like business management books - they tend to dress up simple/obvious maxims with lots of catchy buzzwords and snack-sized anecdotes, and aren’t necessarily well-written or insightful. This book does a bit of that, but I found it well-written, engaging, and grounded in the specific history of Amazon. If you were going to use a company as a benchmark for solid business practices, Amazon is a pretty good choice. They dominate two entirely different industries (online retail and cloud computing), and have distinctive, interesting business strategies to discuss (written memos instead of PowerPoint, modular APIs for every function at the company). The authors take you through six different principles of ‘being Amazonian’ (the Amazon / Jeff Bezos adoration is a little much, but overall OK), then talks through how Amazon puts those principles into action through four case studies (which on their own are an interesting inside look into Amazon’s history). I don’t think the six principles covered are all uniquely Amazon, but they’re explained well, and provide a useful template for anyone trying to grow an efficient business. To provide some constructive criticism (a big Amazonian trait), here are some downsides of the book, in my view: - You could make a strong argument that Amazon rode the Internet wave to success, executing on the right idea at the right time. Obviously they’ve capitalized on their success well, but the book makes a lot of post-hoc arguments linking the principles to the company’s success - it’s hard to know how much of that truly mattered. - The two halves of the book were both great, but felt a bit disjointed from each other. I think the six principles all make total sense, but felt shoehorned into the case studies. - I wish there had been more discussion on how to implement these principles into companies that aren’t giant software-based money-making machines run by a leader with tons of political capital. Most companies aren’t like Amazon. The authors specifically call out that sometimes ex-Amazoners fail to instill the principles at new companies because of ‘timing’ - what makes it harder or easier to implement them? Overall though, a really engrossing read, with clear rules-of-thumb takeaways that I’ll try and internalize in my day-to-day work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This book isn't particularly different from any number of business related books that strive to show you their processes and how it can help you succeed in your own business. You go in hoping for some wonderful insight, but are left with mildly interesting ideas that you will probably never use. This one was praised by Tyler Cowen so I went in with my hopes up, but it turned out to be more of the same. If you are in a business related to one of Amazon's business, you may get more out of it than This book isn't particularly different from any number of business related books that strive to show you their processes and how it can help you succeed in your own business. You go in hoping for some wonderful insight, but are left with mildly interesting ideas that you will probably never use. This one was praised by Tyler Cowen so I went in with my hopes up, but it turned out to be more of the same. If you are in a business related to one of Amazon's business, you may get more out of it than I did. One major topic is the powerpoint moratorium Amazon has, rather using the 6-page document that everyone reads at the beginning of meetings. This is a well-known Amazon process, but there is good discussion about it in this book. I find this idea really interesting, though it would certainly meet a lot of resistance anywhere you try to institute it, like it did at Amazon. Another topic is bar-raising hiring. The main process behind bar-raising hiring is having people from different areas of the organization be involved in the hiring process so you get lots of perspectives, and each of these people can veto the candidate. The idea is that this will lead to hires that raise the bar of competence at something in the organization. This idea won't really work at all organizations, but interesting nonetheless. Working backwards means that when they develop a product, they start with a PR/FAQ. This helps them develop a product that customers want and that meets a customers needs. A good idea for those in product development. The authors went on to discuss the product developments of Kindle, Prime and others. These were interesting behind-the-scenes stories, but I don't think there is much to take away from these. Overall this was an enjoyable enough book to read, though there isn't much in the way of business takeaways.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Great book. Lays out many of the core methods used at Amazon with underlying principles and detailed descriptions of them being applied. Written in a highly engaging way. The origin story of the Kindle was fascinating: understanding that the value of aggregation for digital products such as eBooks is much weaker than physical products and hence Amazon needed to innovate at the ends of the value chain. This led to the creation of Amazon Publishing and the Kindle. We can see this again playout late Great book. Lays out many of the core methods used at Amazon with underlying principles and detailed descriptions of them being applied. Written in a highly engaging way. The origin story of the Kindle was fascinating: understanding that the value of aggregation for digital products such as eBooks is much weaker than physical products and hence Amazon needed to innovate at the ends of the value chain. This led to the creation of Amazon Publishing and the Kindle. We can see this again playout later on with Amazon Prime and the Amazon Firestick. Many useful concepts for early-stage startups: customer centricity, the working backwards press releases; hiring processes; and how Jeff encouraged attention to detail through initial monitoring. Also many useful concepts for bigger orgs: single-threader leadership; and narrative documents. The working backwards process represents an alternative to the standard lean startup methodology. https://commoncog.com/blog/product-de... does a great job of making direct comparisons: "If there’s anything we’ve learnt from the decade after Lean Startup, it is that sometimes, even building an MVP can be too expensive. (And sometimes having a core group of differentiated evaluators can be just as good, if not better, than getting feedback from users)" — it might well be more efficient to iterate on a press release than a live product.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Agnes Chu

    Easy-to-read vignettes of the authors' experiences at Amazon, although they try a bit too hard to codify it into "Amazonian wisdom". The authors have a very inside look at the process of creating Amazon's best products: kindle, prime video, aws (ish) and they share a high level view from the executive chair on how these projects got conceived and greenlit--spoiler alert: almost every story ends with an unsatisfied Jeff Bezos saying that more can be done for the customer and sacrificing short ter Easy-to-read vignettes of the authors' experiences at Amazon, although they try a bit too hard to codify it into "Amazonian wisdom". The authors have a very inside look at the process of creating Amazon's best products: kindle, prime video, aws (ish) and they share a high level view from the executive chair on how these projects got conceived and greenlit--spoiler alert: almost every story ends with an unsatisfied Jeff Bezos saying that more can be done for the customer and sacrificing short term revenue. Highlights include the chapter on input metrics, a deeper dive into the press release process (I realized that my company which emulated this took it slightly out of context), and the single-threaded leader and team concept (more relevant for large companies). There was one story where a customer service rep knew about a product being returned often because of damage from bad packaging. I would've developed a process but the customer service agent to provide feedback to the product team but Jeff Bezos developed a red button for the customer service to press that would take it off the site until the problem was fixed. This is why Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet. He makes bold moves. All in all, the first part of the book was wonderful and the second part goes into a Barack Obama memoir style narrative of half justification and propaganda for Amazon products.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aviva Rosman

    It's a strange time to be reading a book about Amazon, as several thousand warehouse workers in Alabama consider unionization and the corporate Twitter account fires off weirdly hostile attacks at popular American senators. But if you're comfortable putting ethical debates to the side (which you may not be), Amazon is a fascinating company. Over the past two decades, its built an astonishing number of successful businesses. AWS alone is worth half a trillion(!) and that's for a service that has It's a strange time to be reading a book about Amazon, as several thousand warehouse workers in Alabama consider unionization and the corporate Twitter account fires off weirdly hostile attacks at popular American senators. But if you're comfortable putting ethical debates to the side (which you may not be), Amazon is a fascinating company. Over the past two decades, its built an astonishing number of successful businesses. AWS alone is worth half a trillion(!) and that's for a service that has nothing to do with Amazon's original core value proposition or customer. If you're interested in how Amazon has been so successful, Working Backwards is straightforward and practical, and the insider stories of the development of Amazon practices and products makes for a memorable read. I took a lot from the chapters on metrics, communication, and the titular working backwards process, and enjoyed the second half of the book which shows how Amazon's principles were put into practice in the development of the Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Video, and AWS. Sometimes the authors can veer into unnecessary personnel detail, i.e. "This project was developed by Jim James and Stan Smith, both great guys who eventually left for Blue Corp" that sounds the way I imagine a corporate golf game. But overall a solidly helpful book and revealing look into how Amazon works.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Sotola

    This book was fascinating. I give it 4 out of 5 Andon Cords. Here are my key takeaways: Start with the customer and work backwards - harder than it sounds, but a clear path to innovating and delighting customers. Amazon’s culture has been defined by 4 characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. One bad customer experience can undo the goodwill of hundreds of perfect ones. If a company’s principles must be memorized, it’s a warning sign t This book was fascinating. I give it 4 out of 5 Andon Cords. Here are my key takeaways: Start with the customer and work backwards - harder than it sounds, but a clear path to innovating and delighting customers. Amazon’s culture has been defined by 4 characteristics: customer obsession, long-term thinking, eagerness to invent, and operational excellence. One bad customer experience can undo the goodwill of hundreds of perfect ones. If a company’s principles must be memorized, it’s a warning sign they aren’t sufficiently woven into the fabric of the company. Thinking small is a self fulfilling prophecy. The organization that moves faster will elevate more, simply because it will be able to conduct a higher number of experiments per unit of time. Single-threaded leadership: a single person, unencumbered by competing responsibilities, owns a single major initiative and heads up a separable, largely autonomous team to deliver its goals. Dependency creates drag. Two-pizza team: teams would be no larger than the number of people that could be adequately fed by two large pizzas. The best way to fail at inventing something: make it somebody’s part-time job. Customers are divinely discontented and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ordinary. #ReadersAreLeaders

  24. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    worth the read - nonfiction that reads like fiction p. 51 the Amazon Bar Raiser process for hiring p. 51 "Hire and Develop the best" p. 80 the end of PowerPoint at team meetings - start with a six page review to read instead - meeting starts in silence as staff read (less mind wandering) p. 98 "Working Backwards Start wit the desired customer experience" (I think a good idea) Kindle and Prime beginnings are very interesting stories What is being "Amazonian"? p. 270 good questions to ask: What are the b worth the read - nonfiction that reads like fiction p. 51 the Amazon Bar Raiser process for hiring p. 51 "Hire and Develop the best" p. 80 the end of PowerPoint at team meetings - start with a six page review to read instead - meeting starts in silence as staff read (less mind wandering) p. 98 "Working Backwards Start wit the desired customer experience" (I think a good idea) Kindle and Prime beginnings are very interesting stories What is being "Amazonian"? p. 270 good questions to ask: What are the biggest mistakes we have made last period, and what have we learned from them? What are key inputs for this business? What is the single biggest thing we can do to move the needle in this business, and how will we organize to do just that? What are the top reasons we should not do what we're proposing today? When push comes to solve, what are the things we won't compromise on? What's hard about the problem we are trying to solve? If our team had X more people or Y more dollars, how would we deploy those resources? What are the top three new initiatives, products, or experiences our team has launched in the past X months, and what did we learn from them? What dependencies do we have in our area today over which we wish we had control?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ty

    Amazon is a fascinating thing, so I was interested in this book written by two former long time senior managers from the company which claims to describe what it means to be Amazonian and how to apply the Amazon principles in our own lives and companies. What did I learn? I learned that much of the structure that Amazon put in place appears to have been created so that a megalomaniacal genius like Bezos could micro manage as much of the company as possible for as long as possible. I really don't Amazon is a fascinating thing, so I was interested in this book written by two former long time senior managers from the company which claims to describe what it means to be Amazonian and how to apply the Amazon principles in our own lives and companies. What did I learn? I learned that much of the structure that Amazon put in place appears to have been created so that a megalomaniacal genius like Bezos could micro manage as much of the company as possible for as long as possible. I really don't see how any normal organization could make much use of most of the practices that these guys are so proud of, and they just don't seem to notice that there might be an issue when they suggest things like: just hire more people and managers so that every important task has a dedicated team and leader. Well...gee... if I am not working at a superfast growing cash generation machine, how do I fund that? The description of how Amazon does hiring is useful, and is the chapter on how the created the corporate principles and values, but the rest is interesting only in a tourist kind of way, like going to see Windsor Castle and wondering how it would be to live there. Not highly recommended unless you are interested in working at Amazon and need to learn why that is a bad idea.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cmadler

    I've read plenty of business books over the years, and to be blunt, this is one of the best I've come across. I predict that this will quickly make its way onto required reading lists at business schools, alongside the likes of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Throughout this book, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr provide an insider's perspective on key moments at Amazon, including analyses of the decision-making process and after-the-fact reflections on what went rig I've read plenty of business books over the years, and to be blunt, this is one of the best I've come across. I predict that this will quickly make its way onto required reading lists at business schools, alongside the likes of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Throughout this book, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr provide an insider's perspective on key moments at Amazon, including analyses of the decision-making process and after-the-fact reflections on what went right, what went wrong, what they learned, and how the learnings can be applied at other businesses and organizations. This is one of the few business books I've come across that I immediately knew that I'll be returning to repeatedly in future years, and the first that I could imagine myself giving copies to others as well. I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Corley

    This isn't a pop-business book like you'd get from Malcom Gladwell. If you're looking for fun and fluffy stories with pseudo science, look elsewhere. This book is dense and succinct on Amazon process and the reasoning behind it. It's got it's share of war stories and anecdotes but they're somewhat austere in the telling. They do, alas, use the Amazon principle of Data Combined with Anecdote to Tell the Whole Story. The book is great at what it does. Going in, I was familiar with the Amazon 6 page This isn't a pop-business book like you'd get from Malcom Gladwell. If you're looking for fun and fluffy stories with pseudo science, look elsewhere. This book is dense and succinct on Amazon process and the reasoning behind it. It's got it's share of war stories and anecdotes but they're somewhat austere in the telling. They do, alas, use the Amazon principle of Data Combined with Anecdote to Tell the Whole Story. The book is great at what it does. Going in, I was familiar with the Amazon 6 pager from reading their Letters to Shareholders https://ir.aboutamazon.com/annual-rep... (which are fantastic, btw). I had not heard about the PR/faq method before, but I like it. Its somewhat similar to what we once called 404 testing: that's where you build the landing page for a product, buy some traffic and test to see if people would buy before you have the product. (When they complete the order, you would just send them to a 404 page and no transaction would happen). Amazon is eating the world. This book sheds more insight into how and why. It will be interesting to see how much culture drift occurs now that Jeff is no longer CEO.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Wogahn

    I knew about the mission of customer first, the six-page memo instead of PowerPoint, and frugal doors-as-desks mandate so I skipped the first half of the book and went straight to the four case studies: Kindle, Prime, Prime Video, AWS. They were fast-paced, yet detailed, filled with interesting anecdotes (Jobs demoing Apple’s first PC programming effort—it sucked). The writing was terrific, information solid, and honest. It was good enough to get me to return to the beginning of the book to learn I knew about the mission of customer first, the six-page memo instead of PowerPoint, and frugal doors-as-desks mandate so I skipped the first half of the book and went straight to the four case studies: Kindle, Prime, Prime Video, AWS. They were fast-paced, yet detailed, filled with interesting anecdotes (Jobs demoing Apple’s first PC programming effort—it sucked). The writing was terrific, information solid, and honest. It was good enough to get me to return to the beginning of the book to learn about the evolution and refinement of the tools that allowed—and now enable—Amazon to succeed (constantly referenced in the case studies). The “being Amazonian” rah rah can get a bit tiresome. And anyone who sees Amazon (and Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.) as evil would probably find little to like, but it’s clear that these systems and processes work. What strikes me is how this now mammoth company can continue to innovate and execute organically. Working Backwards is both a history lesson and a playbook for others to follow. It’s possible if you have the discipline.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tomasz Onyszko

    Everyone had access to the same tech, same market, same Internet - yet in so many places Amazon excelled and did it before competition or stepped into a new market. One thing to remember - you can't be an Amazon by following what they did. It won't work this way. This book gives glimpse into how Amazon operates at decision making process and is using principles to deliver new products and services, innovate over and over again It is divided into two parts: * The approach / principles and how it w Everyone had access to the same tech, same market, same Internet - yet in so many places Amazon excelled and did it before competition or stepped into a new market. One thing to remember - you can't be an Amazon by following what they did. It won't work this way. This book gives glimpse into how Amazon operates at decision making process and is using principles to deliver new products and services, innovate over and over again It is divided into two parts: * The approach / principles and how it works in the Amazon * Case studies on how things mentioned in the first part helped delivered inn0vations like Kindle and AWS I found this book very informative, picked up few approaches and practices to implement in my business. If you are in a business area in technology (not only) read it and think if those things fits your business and how (how to implement it). If you are not running / managing a business you will also find it interesting from "how they come to this" point of view. Very interesting glimpse into how Amazon become Amazon.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Luis Cuesta

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. In their book Colin Bryar and Bill Carr portrayed Amazon as the result of an incredibly well-designed and engineered approach to building value by enabling and empowering teams, focusing on serving customers with a long-term view, and being relentless in that pursuit. Theirs is an insider view because they worked on the company for many years and this is an aspect to take in account in order to value the significance of the book. I think their target I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. In their book Colin Bryar and Bill Carr portrayed Amazon as the result of an incredibly well-designed and engineered approach to building value by enabling and empowering teams, focusing on serving customers with a long-term view, and being relentless in that pursuit. Theirs is an insider view because they worked on the company for many years and this is an aspect to take in account in order to value the significance of the book. I think their target audience is probably made of those that like business books that offer a blueprint for businessmen and entrepreneurs to implement guiding principles, operating rhythms and durable mechanisms in their companies. For the rest of us , you keep reading because you want to have a better idea of what is to be an "Amazonian" ( a completely new term for me, and a very clever one) and this book opens that door for you.

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