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Bloomberg Businessweek has an interview with John Rossman, described as a consultant who "sat in Amazon’s inner sanctum while Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos was trying to recover from the dot-com bust and build a sustainable future for the company," and now the author of "The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company."

Some excerpts:

• "Amazon’s leadership principles are different for a few reasons. First, they are usable at a practical level. Amazon’s can be employed in most situations where trade-offs, prioritization, strategy development, or key scenarios are being developed. Second, Amazon’s are authentic and represent who the company really is. They are a very practical reference to help a large, rapidly growing organization to gain alignment. Most companies’ principles are watered down, not used to make hard decisions, and are not well understood by employees."

• "There are two key words: 'customer' and 'obsession.' To obsess means to think very deeply about it, to never let it out of your thinking, and to use it as the constant cornerstone of approach. Most companies don’t truly obsess about anything—they think about it, they may even act on it, but they are not obsessed. Look at the history of features and advancements Amazon has made, and they truly do work to make a great customer experience. They make long-term investments to create an innovative and better customer experience."

Regarding Amazon's dispute with Hachette over the cost of books… "Amazon is flexing its muscle and negotiating with a supplier. It happens every day by every company in every industry. One can argue that 'getting improved terms' benefits the customer, as this allows Amazon to pass price improvements and other terms on to the customer. The flip side is also true: The negotiation, in the short term, impacts customers and makes it harder to easily access the Hachette selection and Amazon features such as Prime and preorders.

"Customer obsession is a very real value at Amazon, but it is not the only one. That’s the great benefit of having stated and well thought-out principles, which sometimes might not be in alignment—they help you think through all the considerations. Another Amazon value is ownership, which is defined as 'thinking long term and not sacrificing long-term value for short-term results.' By pursuing favorable terms and increasingly using their leverage in the market, Amazon is balancing long-term benefits to customers and shareholders with immediate customer impact."

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
I do think that this is an interesting time for Amazon, and I suspect we're going to learn about the company's ability to be a different kind of nimble. It's always been good at disruption, and at positioning itself as being a different kind of retailer, one uniquely in tune with 21st century priorities and sensibilities. But now, there are competing priorities within the company's infrastructure, and there is a sense among some of us that there may be a kind of tone-deafness in Amazon's upper reaches, though I'm perfectly willing to consider the possibility that leadership could be absolutely right in being resolute about how it deals with Hachette, that this will pay off in the end. I've always argued that Bezos plays chess when a lot of his competitors play checkers, and while I may be dubious about some recent moves (and I've noticed a few things within my own recent Amazon experiences, in terms of both prices and availabilities, that seem slightly off-kilter), I cheerfully concede that I'm no chess-master.

There's an interesting piece on Slate called "Amazon Subprime" that makes the case, and you can read it here. And I've already written about how Amazon turned Stephen Colbert into an enemy, which does not strike me as the smartest move in the world. (If I were Jeff Bezos, I'd call Colbert directly and offer to appear ASAP on "The Colbert Report." He's smart enough to make his case, and there's nothing like willingly going into the lion's den to gain a little respect. Plus, the ratings would be huge.)

Amazon always has been nimble enough to stay in synch with modern consumers. The question now is if it can be nimble enough to adjust when it seems like its priorities may not be those of the shoppers that it says it puts first.