When I was just about to open Word Press and file today’s blog post, one of my advisees sent me a short email thanking me for a meeting we had today and including two paragraphs from a Jeff Bezos shareholder letter. The Bezos quote is worth sharing (see below). And it’s also worth marveling a little at the senior in high school who would first dig up the quote and then attach it to a thank you note. I have the best job in the world.
As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.
A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it’s the second.”
~Jeff Bezos, 2016 Letter to Shareholders