Friday, 21 August 2015

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The New York Time story on Amazon – Inside Amazon: wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace -made good reading, excellent tear jerker, what with people covering their watery face while coming out of meetings, or flooding their tables in the face of difficulties. Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos is pushing the envelope hard to discover new frontiers of performance. Every corporation talks of performance management. All that they are trying to do is to monitor and enhance performance levels through data management. Amazon is doing it rather too well, or Amazon tops them all in managing performance. So, what is wrong in Amazon doing what every business corporation wants to do and does it better than them all?

                 “This is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, 
                    groundbreaking things, and those things aren’t easy”

Every organization talks of innovation. Innovation is possible only if all the ideas which come to the table are put to rigorous test. How else can you innovate if you cannot tear apart each other’s ideas? Questioning ideas and looking at alternatives is motherhood. How come it has become painful in Amazon?

The communication tool of Amazon provides opportunities to employees to inform top management about their views on any other employee. This, it is believed, results in intrigues and scheming by employees against each other. Quite possibly it does. But, pray, which organization does not have intrigues and scheming? The only difference is that Amazon provides the valve to release the pressure when it can no more be contained, whereas others do not have an institutionalized tool, but nevertheless suffer clandestine intrigues and scheming. It is Darwinism all the way in business corporations; but as one of the HR executives of Amazon who is quoted in the article said, the difference is that in Amazon it is ‘purposeful Darwinism’.
Is it all only frustration, tears and denials to share time with ailing family members? ‘When you are shooting for the moon, the nature of the work is really challenging’, said, Susan Harker, one of Amazon’s top recruiters. And, if Amazon is still finding people in droves to join them, there are, indeed, lots of people who want to shoot for the moon. Challenges are what bright people look for. Amazon offers plenty of challenges. As a former employee, John Rossman said, Amazon was the greatest place he hated to work. One has to accept the fact that even while one hates to work there it still remains a great place!

                       “A lot of people who work there feel this tension; it’s the 
                         greatest place I hate to work.” – John Rossman, former executive

An organization which ‘strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things’ which aren’t easy’ will have to manage its people differently. That is why Bezos ‘rejects many of the popular management bromides that other corporations at least pay lip service to..’ What is unfair in motivating people to work beyond normal human limits, because Amazon tries to recruit achievers who are beyond normal human limits? Yet there is one lingering question: when performance standards are so stringent for all, how come the recruiters do such bad job that so many of their recruitees have to quit the company, not being able to rise up to their own expectations! How does Amazon tolerate this wasteful recruitment? What price the recruiters pay for this failure?
One may cover one’s face while coming out of meetings because one did not come up to one’s own expectations. One may not be able to balance between work and life, because it is work and work alone that one chose. So, then why blame Bezos or his great organization Amazon?
One last word. How Bezos wants to run Amazon is not a secret. What he expects from every one of the new recruits is obviously made amply clear to them before they join. Why do they join the company with such unbearable challenges? Is it not because they want to enjoy the thrill of facing great challenges and be part of a creative organization? One may cover one’s face while coming out of meetings because one did not come up to one’s own expectations. One may not be able to balance between work and life, because it is work and work alone that one chose. So, then why blame Bezos or his great organization Amazon?
Tailpiece: This writer is past seventy. Naturally he is not an aspirant to join Amazon.
By V.K.Talithaya (vktalithaya@managementmasala.com)
 Management Masala V K Talithaya.jpg
On 8/21/2015

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