Jeff Bezos recently sent his annual letter to Amazon shareholders. The whole thing is worth reading. But this part, in particular, is just wonderful:
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible — one-way doors — and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that — they are changeable, reversible — they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
Bezos is describing what I call slow-fast decision making — the art of taking time on the core decisions (“Type 1”) but moving iteratively on a large number of supportive decisions (“Type 2”) — and the importance of building this into your organization. Too often, large organizations mistake decision-making for a science; over time, searching for a perfect answer — entirely de-risked, an impossibility — makes these organizations slow, fat, and dumb. They become prey for a hungry market.
In addition to slow-fast decision making, Amazon is amazing because of its laser focus. Bezos wrote this in 1997:For nearly twenty years, Amazon has been building an infrastructure-of-scale that we have never seen before. This is only possible because Bezos and company are the right balance of slow-fast, and have been since the beginning.