Table full of pizzas

When 2 Pizzas just aren’t enough

Fri, 29 Jul 2022

This blast from Amazon's past includes some intriguing approaches to organizational structures and communication.
 

Love him or loathe him, everyone can agree that Jeff Bezos knows how to make a buck, so when he speaks people tend to listen. When browsing this recent CB Insights paper, 11 laws driving success it tech, I was intrigued by a reference to his so-called “two pizza rule”.

Digging deeper, I saw that this "law" dates from 2002 – I’m obviously further behind with my reading than I thought – but it was interesting nonetheless. Perhaps even more so, given the current focus on keeping communication flowing and collaboration flowering as we negotiate seismic shifts to remote and hybrid working.

A Slice of History

The background to this “law” is explained in Brad Stone’s book about Bezos and Amazon, an excerpt of which can be found in this techinasia article. The legend goes that, in the late ‘90s, a team of junior executives were presenting their ideas about fostering dialogue between different teams.

Bezos turned conventional wisdom on its head with his response:

Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way.

We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.

By 2002 this concept had morphed into his “two pizza rule”. The entire organization would be restructured into small teams who, when working late, could be fed by two pizzas!

The idea was that small, autonomous teams would foster an entrepreneurial, nimble, competitive spirit. Another part of its appeal, no doubt, was that operating costs could be cut by eliminating entire layers of middle management.

The Dominos begin to fall…

Most successful entrepreneurs are brave enough to embrace ideas from left field, but some withstand the test of time better than others. This one fell by the wayside as many groups found it just didn’t work for them.

Some observers have, however, given it credit for contributing to the development of Amazon Prime, Kindle, and AWS.

The emphasis eventually shifted from team size to a single-threaded leader (STL) concept. Each team would have a leader dedicated to a single initiative at a time, rather than splitting their time, focus, and energies between multiple projects

Am I drawing too long a bow by noting that the relaxation of the two pizza rule seems to have coincided with the explosive growth of the Domino’s pizza chain after it went public in 2004?

Would you like EFT with that?

In the time-honoured fast food tradition of suggestive selling, you might like to try these:

  • Notes and Document Management Link, Orchid’s core Sage 300 collaboration products, can give you the best of both worlds. Help teams share important information without distracting them from the task at hand.
  • And whether your teams order two pizzas or ten, ensure they are promptly reimbursed using Orchid’s EFT Processing.

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