A Critique of the Amazon Leadership Principles, Part 4

Dennis Consorte
6 min readOct 14, 2021
older and younger hands interlocked
Trust. Source: Pixabay

In Part 1 of my Critique of the Amazon Leadership Principles, I covered the first two principles of Amazon’s guiding documentation: Customer Obsession; and Ownership. In Part 2, I went over three more principles: Invent and Simplify; Are Right, A Lot; and Learn and Be Curious. In Part 3, I covered these three principles: Hire and Develop the Best; Insist on the Highest Standards; and Think Big. In this article, I will cover these leadership principles:

  • Bias for Action
  • Frugality
  • Earn Trust

Each section begins with a quote from the original document, followed by my critique. This is a work-in-progress and I acknowledge that my critique is subject to… critique. This is Medium, so please feel free to highlight those sections with which you agree or disagree, and leave your comments.

Bias for Action

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

I don’t have a criticism of this point, since the keyword is “calculated.” You have to take risks if you want to move beyond the status quo. I would just add that there should always be an autopsy of results. After you’ve activated your plan, you need to spend time figuring out what went well, what went poorly, and what knowledge can be applied to the next iteration for improved results. If you approach risk taking with this framework for doing better, then you’ll get value out of every action, even when you fail.

Frugality

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Frugality is useful for maintaining profit margins. And if you’re a start-up, then you need to bootstrap and find ways to get more done with less. You’re competing against companies with bigger pockets, so you have to be nimble and creative to produce similar outputs. To that end, if you apply the principle of frugality to your solutions, you’ll be far ahead of people who are more liberal with their spending.

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