Writing Docs at Amazon →
Amazon is famous for its “No PowerPoint” policy for meetings, requiring that those calling meetings for any new idea, project, or effort write a narrative document to describe the ins-and-outs of what’s on the table for discussion. These documents get circulated to all the right people beforehand for review, so that the team can really drill in on an aligned objective for the meeting with clear data at their fingertips about the pros and cons.
This piece talks about the experience with this process first-hand from a former employee, bulleted out to help understand how it works:
Understand what you are trying to accomplish with the document (as with anything you write). For example, is this a new project that you want to undertake (product you want to build)? Is this a significant change to a planned launch date or feature set (especially of a high-visibility project)? Is this just more of a status update? Is it an answer to a specific question or request that Jeff made, or is this something that you are bringing to him? One of the hardest types of docs to write was basically a “de-commit” document (Amazon is big on “disagree and commit,” so if you are coming back and wanting to de-commit to something previously agreed, you really had to have your data and logic clear as to what had changed since the plan was committed.)
I’ve always admired this idea, as I’m a firm believer that writing is one of the best thinking tools around. Human brains are terrible at holding on to lots of discrete information and webbing it all together. Building these behaviors into the organizational culture would embed critical thinking more deeply and democratically across the whole team.