“Small shiftsin your thinking, and small changesin your energy,can lead to massive alterations of your end result.”
~ Kevin Michel, Moving Through Parallel Worlds To Achieve Your Dreams
My own personal growth is an extension of the outstanding peer, manager, and associate interactions on this shift of shifts, with
whom I could not be prouder to have worked alongside.
After completing my last Peak, I highlighted that, “the ability to get better after experiencing difficulty and adversity is like building muscle. The more you are tested and the more you are challenged, the better you are at using the strength gained through those experiences.”
Having gone through five Peaks, I can honestly say that my growth in the business has been exponential. My process knowledge, business and tech experience, and strength through adversity have all improved immeasurably since I started at Amazon.
After my second Peak, my role changed to Operations Manager, but Amazon took on next-day delivery, a homage to customer obsession that shot a charge through the tens of facilities that manage the receipt and delivery of the millions of customer orders a day. Experienced Amazonians stated that the sheer amount of work required to keep up with customer demands felt like days of old, as evidenced by both Black Friday and Cyber Monday seeing record customer purchases and volume.
This represented a paradigm shift, propelling the company deeper into customer satisfaction. Whenever there is a new or evolving paradigm, you must adopt new values, habits, and systems to keep pace with the changing environment and ensure that nothing is lost as you gain a new and better mindset.
My first lesson in adopting a new paradigm is the old, tried-and-true “you cannot do it alone.” Delegation and subordinate trust were keys to the success of the team. Assigning managers the requirements to track different elements of the shift and providing updates during regular sync meetings allowed me to focus on the bigger picture and ensure that resources were available when needed. This also allowed the shifts to track more tasks, which directly resulted in higher throughput.
One piece of advice I always remembered from my time in the military is that effective managers know what responsibilities to delegate to allow themselves time to plan, collaborate with others in the organization, and monitor their team’s performance. And when you delegate, managers feel a sense of trust and ownership in the team’s success.
The remainder of the lessons I will share came from this great team that I have raved about. The farmer, the former professional soccer star, the two managers that were promoted from the ground up, and the old Air Force Admin NCO. I highlight this partially in jest but also to give you an idea of the eclectic nature of Amazon. Granted, they all have a tremendous amount of experience, have advanced degrees, and are all smarter than me, but the magic formula is simply teamwork and caring about the associates who work 10-12 hours each day to deliver on our customer promise.
Train the bench before the peak.
On one of the first days of peak, our shift had the opportunity to close out the day with over a million units; at the time, no other facility had completed that high of a volume all year—and it was just November. As the shift started, we quickly realized that our indirect (support) staff training was lacking, and we had to indirectly complete in-stride training of jam clearers and universal picks. This oversight could very well have cost us the only opportunity for the facility and maybe even the network to have a record volume for the year. We sprang into action to ensure that the training was both fast and effective, so that productivity was not hindered.
Great individuals make great teams.
Instruct associates on how their individual performance fits in the greater scheme of the shift and business. This gives high-achieving teams and individuals a target to exceed if they are so inclined or an idea of how much they should improve to meet basic standards. It also gives them the incentive to complete swift labor moves, break returns, and other instances where their performance could be adversely affected.
Tickets, prizes, and spin-or-scan-to-win games were all great motivators for associates. The effort that associates exhibited during occasions when tickets were on the line was obvious and absolutely increased performance. Finding a way to include similar incentives throughout the year could take the edge off of the day and potentially offer sustained improvement in performance.
Mind the Associate experience.
Communication and focusing on mandatory overtime associate experience, especially during Peak times, was the brainchild of our “Tier 1 to Manager” leader on the team. Focusing on the associate experience can be beneficial to performance and the overall shift throughput. Overlooking where you staff your overtime associates can be detrimental to the shift and should be a focus of the prior day’s plan. Optimally, a shift should place overtime associates in prime locations to ensure high performance and quick communication of issues.
These and many other lessons were learned and implemented, making our shifts better going forward. A few are aspirational and documented with the intent of implementation at later dates. In all cases, it was essential for good and great shifts alike to recognize what and how they needed to improve. Take it from the shift that, in the past, won the throughput scorecard only 50 percent of the time and is comprised of a farmer, a soccer pro, an Air Force NCO, former Tier 1 managers, and an old retired Colonel—you can always get better.