Working Backwards by Colin Bryar & Bill Carr

Working Backwards by Colin Bryar & Bill Carr


If you love business, and life, this book contains more wisdom than meets the eye.

For the first time ever, Amazon’s 14 leadership principles are illustrated with real-world in-the-room examples.

Written by former executives who worked directly with Jeff Bezos. This insider's guide shares what “Being Amazonian” is like.

If you like marketing, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing has the best marketing mental models.



Part One: Being Amazonian

Introduction to Part One

Hand in hand with the Leadership Principles go the mechanisms, which we also discuss in chapter one. These are he consistent, repeated processes that ensure the Leadership Principles are reinforced year to year and day to day in the company.

The Bar Raiser provides teams with methods to make the strongest hires efficiently and quickly, but without cutting corners.

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.

We found, instead, that a six-page narrative by a given team is the method that best enables everyone in a meeting to get up to speed quickly and efficiently on the project that team is working on.

Our emphasis is on what we call controllable input metrics, rather than output metrics.

1: Building Blocks

Leadership Principles and Mechanisms

Amazon’s Leadership Principles

Mechanisms: Reinforcing the Leadership Principles

The main components of an OP1 narrative are:
S-Team Goals
Amazon Compensation Reinforces Long-Term Thinking

2: Hiring

The Effects of Personal Bias and Hiring Urgency
Hiring at Amazon Before the Bar Raiser
The Bar Raiser Solution
There are eight steps in the Bar Raiser process:
Job Description
Resume Review
Phone Screen
In-Hour Interview Loop
1. Behavioral Interviewing

The method that Amazon interviewers use for drilling down goes by the acronym STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result):

2. The Bar Raiser
Written Feedback
Debrief/Hiring Meeting
Reference Check
Offer Through Onboarding
Hire and Develop the Best

3: Organizing

Separable, Single-Threaded Leadership

Growth Multiplied Our Challenges
Dependencies—A Practical Example
Organizational Dependencies
Better Coordination Was the Wrong Answer
NPI—An Early Response to Organizational Dependencies
Choosing our Priorities
First Proposed Solution: Two-Pizza Team
A two-pizza team will:
Tearing Down Monoliths
The First Autonomous Teams
Some Challenges Still Remained
Two-Pizza Teams Worked Best in Product Development
Fitness Functions Were Actually Worse Than Their Component Metrics
Sometimes You Need More Than Two Pizzas
Bigger and Bitter Still—The Single-Threaded Leader
The Payback

4: Communicating

Narratives and the Six-Pager

The end of PowerPoint at S-Team Meetings

Jeff offered a short explanation of the reason behind the change.

How to Write an Effective Six-Pager
Six-Pagers Vary in Structure and Content
The New Meeting Format
Feedback as Collaboration
Final Thoughts About Narratives

5: Working Backwards

Start with the Desired Customer Experience

Trial and Error, Then Success
Where Are the Mock-Ups? Bill and the Launch of Digital
The Kindle Press Release
The Features and Benefits of the PR/FAQ
Press Release Components
FAQ Components
Consumer Needs and Total Addressable Market (TAM)

These consumer questions will enable you to identify, the core customers by filtering out those who don't meet the product constraints.

Economics and P&L
Go Ahead?

6: Metrics

Manage Your Inputs, Not Your Outputs

The Metrics Life Cycle
The Flywheel: Input Metrics Lead to Output Metrics and Back Again
2. Identify the Correct, Controllable Input Metric
The WBR: Metrics at Work
The Deck

Amazon deck's distinctive features:

The Meeting
Anatomy of a Metrics Chart
Data Combined with Anecdote to Tell the Whole Story
Pitfall 1: Disaster Meetings

One Amazonian still recalls those disaster meetings even though they occurred more than 15 years ago. He said,

Pitfall 2: Noise Obscuring the Signal

Part Two: The Invention Machine at Work

Introduction to Part Two

7: Kindle

Making the Turn to Digital
The Startup Phase for Amazon Digital Media and Devices
Amazon: A Device Maker?!
Kindle Takes Shape

8: Prime

The need for Growth

Amazon customers cared about three main things that we could deliver for them:

Free Shipping 1.0—Super Saver Shipping
There Was a Catch
Loyalty Programs
Walking the Store
It’s Time

9: Prime Video

Unbox: A Misstep on the Long and Winding Road to the Living Room
The Issue of Rights
Prime Instant Video: An Oh-by-the-Way Benefit
Amazon, Hollywood Producer

10: AWS

Web Services Proof of Concept
The Primitives Are Known, They Just Haven’t Been Exposed as Web Services
AWS as It Started


Being Amazonian Beyond Amazon

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