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Unpacking Amazon’s unique ways of working | Bill Carr (author of Working Backwards)

Unpacking Amazon’s unique ways of working | Bill Carr (author of Working Backwards)


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Bill Carr is the co-author of Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon. With a background at Amazon of over 15 years, Bill played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s global digital music and video ventures, including Amazon Music, Prime Video, and Amazon Studios. After Amazon, Bill was an Executive in Residence with Maveron, an early-stage, consumer-only venture capital firm. He later served as the chief operating officer of OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers in the U.S. Today he’s the co-founder of Working Backwards LLC, where he helps companies implement Amazon’s time-tested management strategies. In this episode, we discuss:
• What exactly “working backwards” is, and how you do it
• Why having “single-threaded leaders” is so effective
• Inside Amazon’s intense product review process
• How to actually follow the “disagree and commit” principle
• The thinking behind the principle “Leaders are right, a lot”
• Input vs. output metrics
• Fostering a culture of risk-taking and innovation
• The role and responsibilities of a “bar raiser” in your hiring, and how it significantly improves the success rate of new hires

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and YouTube.

Find the full transcript at: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/unpacking-amazons-unique-ways-of-working-bill-carr-author-of-working-backwards/

Where to find Bill Carr:

• X: https://twitter.com/BillCarr89

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bill-carr/

• Website: https://www.workingbackwards.com/

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• X: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Bill’s background

(04:26) Amazon’s workplace evolution

(09:54) Amazon’s “fitness function”

(11:44) Single-threaded leadership

(18:07) Implementing a program orientation with single-threaded leadership

(20:16) The GM model vs. single-threaded leadership

(21:31) Functional countermeasures needed for single-threaded leadership

(25:22) Embracing the “disagree and commit” principle

(30:22) Understanding disagreements

(32:41) Deciphering Amazon’s “Leaders are right, a lot” principle

(35:25) An explanation of the working backwards framework

(41:16) PR FAQ process: Amazon’s innovation engine

(44:47) Deconstructing the PR FAQ structure

(43:49) The concentric circle model for sharing PR FAQs

(44:55) The customer problem-solution statement

(47:52) Create a product funnel, not a product tunnel

(51:19) How Amazon promotes action vs. talk

(54:35) Amazon’s flywheel and input metrics

(1:00:51) Signs you’ve got a good input metric

(1:04:23) How mistakes can still be made with working backwards

(1:06:54) Why disagreements aren’t necessarily signs products will fail

(1:08:02) Examples of failed Amazon projects

(1:09:55) Cultivating risk-taking and accepting failure

(1:13:57) Amazon’s “bar-raiser” practice for hiring

(1:18:21) Selecting Amazon’s bar raisers

(1:20:41) Advice on implementing practices from Working Backwards

(1:23:10) Bill’s work as an advisor

(1:26:05) Lightning round


Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Working-Backwards-Insights-Stories-Secrets/dp/1250267595

• Jeff Bezos on X: https://twitter.com/jeffbezos

• D.E. Shaw: https://www.deshaw.com/

• Eric Ries’s website: https://theleanstartup.com/

• GM business model: https://fourweekmba.com/general-motors-business-model/

• Rick Dalzell on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richarddalzell/

• The Effective Decision by Peter F. Drucker: https://hbr.org/1967/01/the-effective-decision

• Template: Working Backwards PR FAQ: https://www.workingbackwards.com/resources/working-backwards-pr-faq

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Some-Companies-Others/dp/0066620996

• The Amazon flywheel: https://feedvisor.com/resources/amazon-trends/amazon-flywheel-explained/

• Sixsigma: https://www.6sigma.us/

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries: https://www.amazon.com/Loonshots-Nurture-Diseases-Transform-Industries/dp/1250185963

• Andy Jassy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-jassy-8b1615/

• Implementing Amazon’s Bar Raiser Process in Hiring: A Quick Guide: https://www.barraiser.com/blogs/implementing-amazons-bar-raiser-process-in-hiring

• Microspeak: The As-Appropriate (AA) interviewer: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20231017-00/?p=108897

The Practice of Managementhttps://www.amazon.com/Practice-Management-Peter-F-Drucker/dp/0060878975

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done: https://www.amazon.com/Effective-Executive-Definitive-Harperbusiness-Essentials/dp/0060833459

Steve Jobs: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Jobs-Walter-Isaacson/dp/1451648537

Seveneves: https://www.amazon.com/Seveneves-Neal-Stephenson/dp/0062334514

A Gentleman in Moscow: https://www.amazon.com/A-Gentleman-in-Moscow/dp/0143110438

Dune on Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Dune-Timoth%C3%A9e-Chalamet/dp/B09LJXY4PH

A Spy Among Friends: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15565872/

• Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless disc brake: https://www.sram.com/en/zipp/models/wh-303-ftld-a1

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization: https://www.amazon.com/Fifth-Discipline-Practice-Learning-Organization/dp/0385517254

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

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Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.