Last week, Jeff Bezos, in his annual letter to Amazon shareholders, listed many of the company’s incredible successes.
Like Amazon Prime signing up its 100 millionth member.
Or Amazon Web Services growing to be a $20 billion+ business.
Or its acquisition of Whole Foods.
Or how last year the company sold and shipped more than five billion items.
And then he did a remarkable thing.
He shared why and how Amazon has been able to accomplish all of the above and so much more.
And to keep doing so in spite of now being a very big (560,000+ employees) and mature (20+ years old) company.
For Jeff Bezos, it comes down to two words and all they represent.
A simple concept that all of us have been taught in some form – from our parents, from school, from professional mentors as we have made our way through our careers.
But a concept that when promulgated and enforced rigorously and daily throughout a business organization is the only true wellspring of lasting success.
Bezos notes how Amazon’s culture of high standards naturally derives from the its call-to-arms of “meeting the high expectations of our customers.”
With false modesty and to make the point that he does not equate high standards with perfection, he remarks that Amazon has had “some success” in meeting these expectations, but “billions of dollars in failure” too.
Then, he emphasizes that only through teamwork and culture can true and lasting organizational high standards be conceived and achieved.
And that it naturally follows that high standards are not intrinsic to an individual, but are teachable, “contagious” and able to be learned “through exposure.”
To bring the point home, Bezos concludes with this thought on the importance of human talent and skill:
How about skill? Is it another required element? In my view, not so much, at least not for the individual in the context of teams. The football coach doesn’t need to be able to throw, and a film director doesn’t need to be able to act. But they both do need to recognize high standards for those things…someone on the team needs to have the skill, but it doesn’t have to be you.
This is about as guiding a formulation of what effective business leadership and management is all about as we might ever read.
I’ve written often about Amazon because of the company’s outsized impact on competitive marketplaces and customer expectations across almost all of modern society and business.
While they, like every complex organization, are not without their flaws and justified distracters, it is energizing and motivating to get a “peek under the hood” of the business engine that had outraced so many competitors for 20 years on now.
Meeting the high expectations of modern customers demand extraordinarily high standards of performance across all aspects of our organizations.
For sure, this is a lot of pressure and hard work, but also as Jeff Bezos lightly ends his letter…“high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back.”
Amen to that.
Need More High Standards in Your Business?
Feel like you and your team are not performing at a high enough level to really “break out of the pack” and compete and win?
Need a burst of energy, ideas, and vision to get your business unstuck?
If so, we should talk.
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And we’ll reach out with our thoughts to help you.