Should you consider implementing Jeff Bezos’ senior level meeting structure?

Much has been written about the meeting structure that Jeff Bezos requires at Amazon for those decisions requiring significant investments that will be reviewed by the senior team.  For those unfamiliar with the Amazon process:

  • A six-page narrative is provided, with back-up appendixes
  • All in the meeting spend the first 30 minutes reading the narrative and reviewing the appendixes
  • The issue is then discussed in detail and decisions are made
  • No PowerPoint is ever utilized

Quoting from Jeff Bezos: “The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a PowerPoint presentation, some type of slide show.  In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points.  This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience.  And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo…. If you have a traditional PPT presentation, executives interrupt.  If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on page 4 that question is answered.”

The down side to the 6-pager is that writing a good six-page evidence-based narrative is hard work.  Precision counts and it can be hard to summarize a complex business in 6 pages, so teams work for hours preparing the document for these reviews.  But that preparation does two things.  First, it requires the team writing the document to really deeply understand their own space, gather their data, understand their operating tenets and be able to communicate them clearly.  The second thing it does is that a great document enables our senior executives to internalize a whole new space they may not be familiar with in 30 minutes of reading thus greatly optimizing how quickly and how many different initiatives these leaders can review.”

To write well one has to think well.  When you are making big investments, would you feel more comfortable if you knew that the recommending group were thinking as well as possible?  Would it be easier to evaluate this by reading a narrative rather than reviewing a PPT?  It’s an intriguing proposition to consider.