Bikramji Singh Walia, Director HR, Amazon India

One of the key differentials of the success of Amazon is our peculiar culture. It shapes the way we interact with customers as well as employees by constituting a common set of guidelines which are used as a framework to achieve the goal of becoming Earth’s most customer centric company. At Amazon, we consistently reaffirm and evolve our culture so that it doesn’t become diluted or, worse, misinterpreted. Amazon’s organization culture is not only reflected in our documents and presentations but is personified by our employees and this has been my biggest learning at Amazon till date.

“We at Amazon focus not only on culture building for new employees but also on continually re-enforcing our culture and commitment to existing ones. For the most part, we do this the good old way – with senior leaders talking about their stories/journeys and imparting experiential learning to employees in day-to-day interactions.”

We at Amazon focus not only on culture building for new employees but also on continually re-enforcing our culture and commitment to existing ones. For the most part, we do this the good old way – with senior leaders talking about their stories/journeys and imparting experiential learning to employees in day-to-day interactions. Honestly, it is refreshing to see leaders use the same Amazon leadership principles in all aspects of decision making. I remember a time when Jeff was asked, what is your favorite leadership principle. And I also remember Jeff was just blown away by the simplicity and the essence of the question, rather than anything else. Jeff mentioned his favorite one was ‘Are right, a lot’, which signifies that as one grows within the organization, one has to be ‘Are right, a lot’ considering the impact of the decisions that we continually make. And by using Amazon Leadership principles to structure these decisions (big or small), our leaders not only have a higher probability of getting the decisions right but also in the process, they emerge as culture champions in Amazon.

One would argue that this is a lot easier in locations where Amazon has existed for multiple years, due to the presence to more senior and tenured talent. However, even though Amazon has expanded and scaled globally, we have put in structured efforts to ensure that culture is consistent across locations. Leaders who visit or move to locations where new sites/offices are being setup put concerted efforts and time into conducting ‘leader led learning’ sessions or ‘All-Hands’, where they share more about our Culture and leadership principles with a wider group across the site. We impart most of this information through rich stories of past success and failure at Amazon that have become an essential part of the organization’s knowledge repository and experience. These experiential sessions coupled with right mentorship support and onboarding resources ensures culture consistency across sites and increases probability that the right processes are on-boarded from Day 1.

Overall, we believe that this simple yet powerful and effective mechanism of ‘leaders teach leaders’ helps spin the flywheel faster in multiple ways at Amazon.