In this post from some time back I talked about the difference between brand energy and brand focus. I discussed how marketers often put the emphasis on spend (energy) and hope it ties to an outcome. I contrasted this with marketers who begin with the outcome they want (focus) and apportion an appropriate level of energy to achieve it. Above all, I emphasised the need for balance between these two forces.
We continue to celebrate attritional organizational cultures as hardworking when we should be focusing on the human cost
The recent kerfuffle over Amazon’s culture is a reminder of what can happen when things get out of kilter. If the Amazon report is even remotely correct, the balance between energy and focus within their culture is not working. But here perhaps the dynamics have swung too much in favour of the outcomes. In focusing on customer needs above all else and the need to deliver everything at highly competitive prices and within cut-throat timeframes, Amazon seem to have required their workforce to deliver an overwhelming amount of the energy needed to make that happen. The result has been abject misery.
Sadly, in too many professions today, we continue to celebrate attritional cultures as hardworking when we should be focusing on the human cost of choosing to pursue priorities that require people to suffer. I’ve always loved the ethos of SouthWest Airlines for that reason: ‘customers come second [to our own people], because we can always replace them’.
Photo of “Amazon Fresh” taken by Atomic Taco, sourced from Flickr