In seinem diesjährigen Brief an die Aktionäre erklärt Amazon-CEO Jeff Bezos, dass sein Unternehmen Powerpoint längst aus Meetings verbannt habe. Storytelling sei das Mittel der Wahl, um gute Diskussionen und Entscheidungen zu ermöglichen. Seine Mitarbeiter schreiben ausführliche Memos als Basis für Diskussionen und Entscheidungen.

Bezos selbst beginnt wie so oft mit einer Story. Eine Freundin will Handstand lernen, perfekten Handstand, frei stehend, nicht an der Wand. Sie glaubt, was sie so hört: In zwei Wochen sollte man das können. Von wegen, erklärt Bezos, es würde sechs Monate dauern – bei täglicher Praxis.

Ganz ähnlich sei es beim Schreiben von Memos. Wer Meisterschaft darin erlangen will, braucht Geduld. Ein sechsseitiges Memo, glauben sie, lasse sich in wenigen Stunden oder Tagen schreiben. Tatsächlich aber dauert es eine Woche oder länger. Es ist ein Prozess. Schreiben, Feedback von Kollegen einholen und immer wieder überarbeiten.

Ausführliche Memos anstelle von Charts

Memos bei Amazon sind sechsseitige Erzählungen, die in den Meeting in Ruhe eine halbe Stunden lange gelesen werden – jeder für sich -, bevor die Diskussion beginnt. Ist die Story gut, hat die Diskussion automatische eine hohe Qualität.

Warum, das erwähnt Bezos nicht seinem Brief an die Aktionäre. Doch es gibt eine Anekdote, in der Bezos Amazons Star Showrunner Jill Soloway erklärt, worin die Macht von Storys liege. Sie überzeugen, bewegen und führen Veränderungen herbei: „The way that you make change with story is so much faster than the way politics can make change.” Soloway selbst würde mit der Serie Transparent zum Thema Transgender dafür sorgen, dass die Welt sich verändert. „Laws follow“, sagt Bezos.

Aus dem Brief von Jeff Bezos an die Aktionäre von 2018:

„What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.

Let me give you two examples. One is a sort of toy illustration but it makes the point clearly, and another is a real one that comes up at Amazon all the time.

Perfect Handstands

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.”

Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.

Six-Page Narratives

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable.

Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-pagememo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.


Beyond recognizing the standard and having realistic expectations on scope, how about skill? Surely to write a world class memo, you have to be an extremely skilled writer? Is it another required element? In my view, not so much, at least not for the individual in the context of teams. The football coach doesn’t need to be able to throw, and a film director doesn’t need to be able to act. But they both do need to recognize high standards for those things and teach realistic expectations on scope. Even in the example of writing a six-page memo, that’s teamwork. Someone on the team needs to have the skill, but it doesn’t have to be you.“

Memos erscheinen bei Amazon übrigens ohne Nennung des Autoren. Das Memo ist immer vom ganzen Team, auch wenn es am Ende vielleicht nur einer geschrieben hat und die anderen lediglich Input gegeben haben. Auch eine schöne Idee.