Please forward this error screen to angel. We are currently undergoing maintainence, please come back soon. We are situational leadership essay undergoing maintainence, please come back soon. I never imagined that I would use voice control.
I don’t like shouting at devices and don’t like announcing what I’m doing to those around me. My experience with voice in cars and smartphones has been mediocre. An Echo sat in our house for three years before I began talking to it. Our home has been highly automated since the 1980’s, but my low voltage desk lamps are not compatible with our automation system. Last fall we connected our system to Alexa and bought an Alexa-compatible power strip for the lamps. So I had to talk to a device.
After I got used to it, I tried Alexa’s shopping list and found it convenient. For the past couple of years, Amazon has been making it very easy for just about any Wi-Fi enabled device to be controlled through an Alexa skill. Amazon was once considered the weakest of the voice assistant competitors, which include Google, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and Facebook. Most voice assistants are, well, assistants. They reserve movie tickets, arrange transportation, find answers to questions. Amazon’s Echo has a different focus: always-on listening and hands-free control of an exploding array of internet devices. This turned out to be a good choice.
I have to wonder: Is it an accident that Amazon discovered the most attractive use of voice while its biggest competitors were heading in a different direction? Or is there something about Amazon that gives it an edge, something that we might learn from? How does such a massively large company foster the kind of innovation that leads to completely new markets? And that is why it is always Day 1. We’ve heard so much about Amazon’s customer obsession that it can get boring. After all, doesn’t every company focus on customers? Most executives lose a lot more sleep over profits, or shareholders, or competitors than they do worrying about customers.
Have you any idea how much money those baggage fees bring into this airline every month? And that would be the last customer-obsessed suggestion you would make. But consider the Amazon team that came up with Lambda. Some customers report up to an order of magnitude reduction in cost when they switch to Lambda. Do you know how much revenue Lambda might cannibalize? Everyone understood that lower prices are good for customers, so they are good for Amazon. How does customer obsession get all the way from a statement in a shareholder letter to the actions of front line employees?
Amazon does this by creating a direct line of sight between small teams and the customers they are supposed to be obsessed with, then making the teams responsible for improving the lives of those customers in some way. Too Big to Communicate Around 2001, Amazon’s growth was outstripping the capability of its internal systems to keep up. Jeff Bezos was wise enough to realize that if communication was the problem, the solution had to be less communication, not more. How did the Internet grow so large?
Through a lot of independent agents following their own agendas. How does Open Source software grow? Bezos decided that Amazon should transition to the independent agent model by organizing into small, independent teams. What, exactly, does Bezos mean by a team? Teams are groups of 6-12 people with a leader who acts something like a team CEO. The leader often recruits the rest of the team, and members usually stay with a team for two or more years.
Teams are responsible for a measurable set of external outcomes, usually focused on customers. Team decide internally both what they will work on and how they do the work. Dependencies between teams are kept to an absolute minimum. Once Amazon decided to structure a company composed of small, autonomous teams responsible for small, independent services, it had to figure out how to build an extensible infrastructure with these teams. That took a lot of time and experimentation, but in the end, it worked.
In fact, it worked so well that Amazon decided to sell the infrastructure rather than keep it proprietary. Cloud architectures are fine for a digital world, but how can they possibly work for a large company? When I first heard about AWS, I asked the same question. I used to believe there was a certain critical complexity above which a centralized, a priori approach to running a company was required. I thought that successful large companies were built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of magicians who orchestrated successful strategies. It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities. Knowledge workers own the means of production.