6 takeaways from Jeff Bezos' latest letter to Amazon shareholders

Jeff Bezos sent his annual letter to Amazon shareholders April 18 commending the company's high customer service ratings but outlining how his company plans to rise above the already high expectations of "divinely discontent" customers.

Here are six key quotes from the letter highlighting Mr. Bezos' lessons on the importance of high standards and how organizations can meet them.

High standards can be teachable

"I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread."

High standards are unique to each process

"I believe high standards are domain specific, and that you have to learn high standards separately in every arena of interest. When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn't have high standards on operational process: How to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors)."

Recognition and scope are key

"First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result — the scope."

Expectations should be realistic

"Unrealistic beliefs on scope — often hidden and undiscussed — kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be — something this coach understood well."

Personal skill and team utilization must be recognized

"Beyond recognizing the standard and having realistic expectations on scope, how about skill? Surely to write a world class memo, you have to be an extremely skilled writer? Is it another required element? In my view, not so much, at least not for the individual in the context of teams…Someone on the team needs to have the skill, but it doesn't have to be you."

High standards reap benefits

"People are drawn to high standards — they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the 'invisible' but crucial work that goes on in every company. I'm talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward — it's part of what it means to be a professional."

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