I had a long conversation with Chris that wound from our views of The Situation back around to, “Would you ever think of going back to work at Amazon?”
I gave an inch: “I might consider it. It’s so hard to find work right now and it would be so easy for me to get a job at Amazon.” He said he’d learned a lot from the things he’d done in the two years since he’d quit and that it might fit in with his long-term goals.
He explained that he’d have to have a nice job, not a buying position, but something where he could really kick some ass, get some things fixed. This reminded me of the whole cycle of forgotten, unrealized, & re-rediscovered ideas.
Here’s a little background first: Every quarter or two, management would restructure the company and introduce a new business philosophy into Amazon-culture. (Left hook. Right hook.) The new philosophy would give the company an opportunity to analyze its problems and put together a prioritized list of solutions. (“Do you know what day it is?”) Perhaps the philosophy would be sound, but it would inevitably only be used to build a structure around the problems so that someone could feel better about the situation and that would be it.
The last of these philosophies, brought to us by the freshest MBAs, was Six Sigma. It had been in the wind for a few months and was now being firmly adopted. Again, it’s not important to this story that the reader knows what Six Sigma is – it just needs to be understood that Six Sigma was the latest link in this chain of management philosophies.
I thought of a meeting I’d had a couple of days before I left. It was an information-gathering exercise. A group of Six Sigma black belts (that’s right, black belts) were camped-out in a meeting room interviewing a series of key people, probing them for ideas and opinions.
I went in for my interview. The black belts went on and on about I was asked questions that I’d heard asked or had asked myself a dozen times. Old solutions were aired as new. I sat there, listening to these naive pdisappointed in them. I thought that these people were incredibly naive. First, I was sure that I knew more about what we were talking about than they did. (That was true enough in a way and I guess was the point – a brain drain) Second, I was so jaded that I couldn’t believe that this discussion would amount to anything. I humored their well-intentioned questions, trying my best to reign in my cynicism and knee-jerk finger-pointing.
It was clear to me then, that I was too cynical to be of any use to these optimists, that it was a good thing I was quitting as if I were staying, I would just be dragging everyone down with me. The meeting was winding to an end and I was asked, exit interview style, if there was anything I had to say. “No, I don’t. Just good luck.” “Good luck,” didn’t come out the way it was intended – I was genuinely hoping that this turn of the cycle would be different, but wallowing in my self-depreciative mood it came out bitter: “Good luck!“