Amazon 13th Principle: Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

The thirteenth Leadership Principle of the Amazon Way is:

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

“Disagree and Commit” is a principle which obligates each participant in a meeting to say what they are thinking, even if it means a heated discussion. Your duty is to agree or disagree, but to speak your mind openly.

At the end of the meeting, however, everyone decides on the solution and commits to follow through on it. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree with it!

The people who do well at Amazon are often those who thrive in an adversarial atmosphere with almost constant friction. Bezos abhors what he calls “social cohesion,” the natural impulse to seek consensus. He’d rather his minions battle it out backed by numbers and passion.

Agreement feels good—hey, we get along great!—but it’s not the best for innovation. Why? Because if everybody has the same idea, then you only have one idea.

So if you want more ideas, you need to disagree, which is why partnering with someone who has an opposite work-style or background from you is so effective: Since your perspectives address different areas, you won’t duplicate your work. It’s a confrontational, constructive form of diversity.

Summing-up: Inside Amazon, constant friction begets creative tension.

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10 Comments

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  7. Hameed Mirza

    This is a tough one and it will work effectively in a culture where all employees and management support this behavior.. This principle relates more towards human psychology and ego, and (response) comes under the umbrella of unwritten code of ethics. People may or may not respond positively or not say anything against you but there is a possibility that you created an enemy who will silently work against you. For this reason, most people will not say anything when they feel something is not right. I am glad to find out that “BACKBONE, DISAGREE AND COMMIT” is one of the Amazon’s principle. I do speak my mind respectfully at the right time and place when needed, without any fear.

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