Just Right Porridge and Leadership Principles

Last week I wrote about Have Backbone, Disagree and Commit. This week the topic is about how to get the balance right when living Leadership Principles.

Just as it is possible to not live a leadership principle (under-index), it is possible to over-do them. The key is to find the balance and be like mama bear’s porridge: Just Right.

“Moderation in all things” ― Aristotle

Yes, it is possible to over-do even Customer Obsession. A great way to be thoughtful about this is to apply a “Just Right/Over/Under” taxonomy. Consider this example for Customer Obsession:

Making decisions:

  • Just Right: You are dedicated to meeting and exceeding customer expectations. You seek customer feedback and use it to make improvements.
  • Over: You make too many exceptions to best practice processes based on individual customer feedback.
  • Under: You don’t consider customer needs in decision making; instead, you are focusing on technology, strategy, or internal operations. You fail to put the customer experience first.

Designing products or features:

  • Just Right: You focus on articulating the optimal customer experience early and then work backward from that to determine how to make it true. You deliver value in increments and regularly assess how the product delighting customers.
  • Over: You over-engineer the product, trying to make it meet all customer demands at once.
  • Under: You build something hoping customers will come. You fall in love with a programming language, technology, or process.

As an aside, the internal Amazon wiki has an amazing set of pages for each Leadership Principle that gives a dozen or so examples like the above for each LP. The examples above are from my memory. Last year I sent Jeff Bezos an email requesting that he publish those pages publicly. I mean, if he really is serious about enabling other companies to copy the Amazon way, as he’s publicly said, this would be a great step. I never got a reply.

1 comment

  1. Chuck says:

    Great piece! I once had evangelized “80/20” as part of my decision making process couple with our Customer deliveries. The “80” was the Mama Bear’s porridge. The “20” were the science, experiments, the features that one person out of a thousand would use once in ten years, and the other “look what we did” bells and whistles. “80/20” met a lot of resistance from engineering. As the adoption of “80/20” took hold, we saw wider acceptance from Customer, Users, and increased sales due to the faster turnaround times. But it is a dial that constantly needs to be recalibrated…

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