Move fast and focus on outcomes
Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2016
KEY MESSAGE 18/22
Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
Companies that get complacent die.
Bigger companies are even more at risk because growth and scale make it harder to move quickly when you spot an opportunity.
To stay alive, big companies must strive to make decisions and act faster than startups.
At Amazon, it is always Day 1— it’s a powerful refrain that has featured in every shareholder letter since the original.
Day 1 represents originality, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to delight customers.
Day 2, for Bezos, is a powerful concept that embodies everything he fears could happen to Amazon and that does happen to many large organizations.
It is the idea that all of the tools you used to grow, all of the processes you used to scale, and all of the work you did to get to where you are become the company’s undoing. People get stuck in their processes.
Day 2 is the failure to adapt. And the bigger an organization gets, the harder it needs to work to stave off complacency.
- measure yourself by your customers. They are always “beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied,” in Bezos’ words, and if you focus on always trying to make them happier, it’s hard to go wrong.
- Bezos warns against allowing process to turn into proxy. When you abstract a task into a process, it’s easy to start managing to the process rather than to the outcome you want. Soon, you have people getting the wrong end result and justifying their actions by saying they “followed the process.”
Bezos suggests that you always keep one eye on the outcome, not whether someone has ticked off every box on a list of steps.
Amazon has responded to emerging trends in part through acquisitions, like Whole Foods ($13.7 billion) and Souq ($750 million).
3. trends like AI and machine learning are big today and will be bigger tomorrow. While it’s not always easy to incorporate these kinds of trends into the work that you do, avoiding them means fighting that future.
4. keep up fast decision-making as you grow. Make a point to “disagree and commit” so you can keep things moving forward even in ambiguous, debatable situations.
link to all letters to shareholders
- 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values
- 1998: Stay terrified of your customers
- 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own
- 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat
- 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow
- 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs
- 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership
- 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation
- 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers
- 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business
- 2007: Missionaries build better products
- 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next
- 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves
- 2010: R&D should pervade every department
- 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation
- 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust
- 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation
- 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside
- 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions
- 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes
- 2017: Build high standards into company culture
- 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency