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random work hacks

The 2-pizza rule:
The 2-pizza rule is simple, no team or meeting should be larger than the number of people that can be adequately fed by two large pizzas.

We don’t use the 2 pizzas rule for teams but we do for meetings. For a large portion of my career and still today, I attend meetings with way too many people. For a long time, I just kept quiet thinking it wasn’t my place to question why so many people were attending and who should be excused unless I had booked the meeting myself. I felt uncomfortable even bringing the question up or even excusing myself from the meeting when realizing I had nothing to contribute. Instead, I would sit silently and often space out as my mind gets bored when I am not engaged. The 2-pizza rule has come to my rescue. Although I am not using it as much and as often as I should, quoting this rule has started to enable me to feel more comfortable questioning the number of attendees in some meetings. I don’t use this rule in all meetings I attend, but now and again when I see that a meeting includes a dozen people and I know that only 3-4 are actually truly required, I now bing the pizza rule up. As it’s a fun metaphor, it doesn’t come across rude and it enables anyone in the meeting who might feel out of place to excuse themselves gracefully before they end up wasting their time.


The interview loop:
At amazon, the interview loop is where a candidate will spend a day at Amazon being interviewed by 4-6 employees. In my current role, we have established “the loop” as part of our recruitment process, meaning that for any open position, the final candidate will have to be interviewed by 4 people (future peers, future direct reports or other managers). I have done my fair share of recruitment in my career, both at my current employer, but also to an even greater extent when I was the interviewer manager in a B2B market research firm where I recruited and hired over a hundred people in the course of three years. When that is said, beside getting support from HR for the overall recruitment princess, I have rarely asked others to interview potential candidate. This has now changed greatly as we use “the loop” for all our recruitment and I have become a big fan, enough that I know I will use this technique for every future hiring I will have in my professional life. Why? The loop is a very advantageous process. In addition to mitigating recruitment bias as more people than just the hiring manager interviews the candidates, it also enables future candidate to meet the team, ask relevant questions, be assessed by others and at the end of the day, ensure that every new person we hire is a fit for the team and a joint decision (to the greatest extent possible). In short, I find this process extremely valuable as I could hire the wrong person but I doubt 5 people would all make that mistake jointly.


One way doors versus two way doors:
When I changed position last fall, one of the first new concepts I was introduced to was the one-way versus two-way door concept for decision making. In short, it’s a nice metaphor to help anyone visualize the importance of certain decisions. There are two types of decisions. A one-way door decision is a decision that can’t be easily reversed. This means that such a decision needs to be taken carefully. An example of a one way door could be a product launch. We can’t unlaunch a product. We could take it out of the market, but we can’t pretend it was never launched and never existed. A two-way door is a decision we can reverse. We can walk through the door, see what it’s like and go back if we don’t like it. Two-way door decisions can be made fast and even automated. An example of a two-way door decision could be to decide to start buying parts on an eCommerce platform. One could easily try it and stop if it wasn’t a good experience.

The reason I really like the one-way versus two-way door concept is that it has given me a frame of reference and an ability to easily categorize decisions into 2 groups. I know that for two-way door decisions, there is no need for slow-paced decision making and over analyzing the option, we can move fast and retract if it’s not what we wanted. For one-way door, we need to be careful and make sure we do what we believe is right. Having such a visualization now enables me to simply ask myself, before any decision, is this one-way or two-way and by doing so, I can assess how much I need to ponder on the choice to make.


Changing my mind:
I have always felt that we value people who know what they want and that changing my mind is a sign of weakness and of uncertainty. I have always felt that only unsure people change their mind and therefore, in business, it is often valued highly to stand your ground and never change your mind. When that is said, over the last few months, I have been exposed, on a daily basis to a completely different view on this matter. Changing my mind is not just ok, it is the right thing to do. As I am being presented with new information, I have to reassess my opinion or my decisions and therefore, changing my mind is the only wise thing to do. It is not just ok to change your mind as you gather more insights, it is expected of me to do so when it makes sense. Standing my ground regardless of new information being presented to me is synonym of stubbornness and in extreme cases idiotic. So now, for a few weeks, I started to feel more and more comfortable changing my mind, revisiting what I think and pivoting when needed. There is something extremely freeing in knowing that it’s ok to change my mind and actually expected I will do so if needed.


No/less PowerPoint:
Last and not least, PowerPoint. Amazon is known for not using PowerPoint for meetings and one might expect that when you work with and for an ex-Amazonian, there will be very few or no PowerPoints. Well, I am happy to confirm that in my case this is true, at least in part. We do use PowerPoint for some meetings where slides are the relevant format (customer presentation for example) but in most internal meetings we have, there are no slides. We have adopted, in part, the Amazon memo format and we are all learning to write (in words) the narrative of what we are working on and working for. We share the memo ahead of the meeting, allocate time at the meeting for everyone to read it and instead of having the meeting converted into a long presentation, we discuss the memo, the assumptions presented, the data and the decisions to be made. Overall, I have concluded that no PowerPoints is actually not really about no PowerPoints, it is about two things:


  1. No one way presentation: by having no PowerPoint, no one is solely presenting all information to the audience in a one-way format. The no PowerPoint forces everyone at the meeting to engage and participate in a way I had rarely experienced before.

  2. Information democracy: by writing a memo, one has to be concise and put all their thoughts on paper. It is a VERY hard exercise and I challenge everyone to try to write a memo instead of creating a presentation. You will see, it is not easy. That being said, as one writes the memo and shares it, something fantastic happens: information democracy. Although you might have received a PPT before the meeting, making sense of the slides isn’t always easy. You get glimpses of the narrative as a pre-read and at the meeting someone has to voice over the PPT to ensure all information is shared. Only then do everyone know. With a memo, there is no need to present, as the narrative and all information are black on white on paper. This enables ANYONE reading the memo before the meeting, at the meeting or after the meeting to know ALL of the same information as everyone else. PowerPoint presentations don’t have that ability.

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