In his annual letter to stockholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive officer, had a couple of things to say about being a “Day 1” business—that is, a company that maximizes its potential.
Day 1 businesses have energy and vitality. Here’s what Day 2 looks like, according to Bezos: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
He recommends customer obsession and a skeptical view of proxies.
Customer obsession translates into a customer-centric focus. “There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great,” he writes. “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better.”
A proxy is anything you substitute for your focus. In many cases, processes become a proxy for people.
“You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right,” he says. “It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, ‘Well, we followed the process.’ The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, ‘Do we own the process or does the process own us?’ ”