Is There Really Anything Wrong With Amazon’s Culture?

newyorktimeslogoFollowing a widely read article in the New York Times purporting to show the true culture at Amazon.com, much has been written about how they need to change from their hard-driving, data driven culture. Poppy cock.

Amazon, like many successful companies has a strong culture. It’s not for everyone. Does it work? Of course it does. How do I know even though I don’t work there and have never talked to anyone who does? Simple: The company is successful and people are lined up to work there. Does everyone want to work there? Of course not. Does the writer of the article in the New York Times? I doubt it. He found people who had worked there and didn’t like it, so they talked about how it is, or at least how they want people to perceive that it is.

I had professional friends suggest that Amazon needed consulting help to “fix their culture.” Poppy cock. Their culture works for the reasons noted above. And everyone is not going to like it. Are there possibly some managers at Amazon that are toxic. Duh. That’s pretty much true everywhere. Should they be expelled. Sure. Maybe they will be.

W.L. Gore has a very different culture than does almost any other company. Is it bad or is it good? Depends on what you like; but it’s good by my definition because the company is successful, and people want to work there.

Amazon’s culture, as described, reminds me of a cross between Andy Grove’s Intel and T.J Rodger’s Cypress Semiconductor, two very successful companies. And hard to work for if you don’t like their approach. Many years ago Robert Swanson founded Linear Technology and was purported to rule with an iron fist and a foul mouth. And very smart and capable people worked in that culture. Did it work for everyone? Of course not. Did it work? By my definition, yes. They attracted the talent they needed and were very successful.

It’s sad and funny that anyone believes there is one “true” way to run a company, or one “best” culture. In my observational experience, if you have a stable, strong culture that produces a profitable enterprise and can attract and keep the talent you need, you have a good culture.

Mitch

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