Planning for Edge Cases, by Using Amazon’s ‘Dogs Not Barking’ Technique

When writing formal annual planning documents at Amazon, Operational Planning 1 (OP1), there is an FAQ that is always inserted, and it is more of a phrase, “Dogs not barking”. It is an essential FAQ item to help ensure the author or authors of the OP1 document cover not just the obvious topics and initiatives, but also account for the outliers. In it’s essence the phrase means:

A situation where the absence of a signal communicates something important.

Analogously, there is this famous quote, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. The quote probably comes from a famous book, The Adventure of Silver Blaze by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The inspector in the book, Gregory asks, “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes responds, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” But, protests the inspector, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” To which Holmes responds: “That was the curious incident.” For Holmes, the absence of barking is the turning point of the case: the dog must have known the intruder. Otherwise, he would have made a fuss. The point is, to pay attention to what isn’t there, not just what is, and this requires intentional focus to be drawn.

The Amazonian ritual of writing FAQs to accompany formal planning or proposal documents is definitely something I would encourage you to incorporate into your workflow, and this is certainly one thoughtful question that would encourage peripheral accountability.

Counterintuitive Lessons on How to Get Better as You Scale, From Twilio’s Jeff Lawson | First Round Review

13 years after Twilio first launched, CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson opens up about the peaks and valleys to share a set of unconventional company building lessons on how to get better as you scale — from introducing new products and refining go-to-market strategies, to focusing annual planning and making post-mortems more effective.
— Read on’s-jeff-lawson

Amazon LPs: Ownership

Amazon’s Leadership Principles, or LPs help its employees hold themselves and each other accountable, through tangible and measurable qualities that guide and lead decision-making, with customers at the forefront.

This article will focus on the principle of ownership.

What is ownership?

Amazon’s official quote for this principle is:

Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

A true leader demonstrates a vested interest in the success of her or his program or product, end-to-end. As large as Amazon is, it’s two-pizza teams behave very much in a startup mentality, and as such a founder of a startup projects ownership and “having skin in the game”.

When you have skin in the game, it isn’t for the duration of the project lifecycle, but for the duration of the product lifecycle. That means, you don’t aim for short-term results at the expense of the long term, you don’t shortcut and absorb bad decisions to release the program on time, but only end up paying for it later on.

This is a cultural mentality and not something everyone can possess, but it shows entrepreneurship and resourcefulness, cutting the bureaucratic tapes and instead of saying “it’s not in my job description”, you demonstrate “all hands on deck”.