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Amazon's Agile Leadership Principles: Customer Obsession

Probably most companies claim to be "customer-centric" – but how many companies would describe themselves as obsessed with the customer? Well, Amazon does just that in its leadership principles. And this customer obsession seems to be one of the success factors for Amazon's high performance and agile work culture.

Amazon's Guiding Principle: Customer Obsession

"Customer obsession" has been anchored as the first of all management principles at Amazon for decades: Amazon Leadership Principles

This principle is about vigorously earning the trust of customers – time and time again.

In addition, it is also about placing more emphasis on creating added value for the customer than on being competitive. In combination with the "Always Day 1" mentality and the two-pizza rule, these 3 leadership principles form the core of Amazon's work culture (see Amazon two-pizza-team rule and Amazon Day 1 mentality).

But does this value of customer obsession really suit every company? Perhaps not with the same intensity as at Amazon. But at least a strong customer focus is also the basis for successful, agile working.

The following Health Check format will give you an idea of where you stand as a team when it comes to customer focus:

Amazon "Customer Obsession" Health Check

In order to live the value of customer obsession like Amazon, the following preconditions must be reflected:

  • Customer contact: Every team must know its customers and maintain the most direct contact possible.
    It is important to understand that every team has a customer – i.e. one or more people who benefit from the team's work. Of course, these do not always have to be external customers; they can also be other teams within the company. In order to live customer orientation, the team needs the simplest possible means of contact with its customers.

    See also Team setup: Amazon's Two Pizza Team rule
  • Working backwards: Each team has a clear picture of the desired customer benefit and user experience before it starts implementing a topic.
    Customer orientation must not be an afterthought, but must be the focus right from the start. In the best case scenario, there is a shared understanding within the team of exactly how the user experience should feel. 
  • Customer trust: Teams prioritize gaining and consolidating customer trust.
    Gaining the trust of customers is difficult and takes time. At the same time, it is lost very quickly if something goes wrong. Accordingly, consolidating customer trust should be a high priority. No short-term gain is worth jeopardizing the hard-earned trust of customers.
  • Customer perspective: Teams focus more on the customer perspective than on the competitive perspective.
    Just because the competition is doing something doesn't mean it's a good idea. A good filter for new ideas is therefore to check whether or not they offer real added value for customers. Not following every trend in the industry can also be an advantage because the organization can then focus on the most important thing instead: Creating added value for the customer.

Amazon "Customer Obsession" Retrospective

How far along is your team when it comes to customer obsession? This retrospective will help you find out and develop your team to become more customer-oriented:

Health Check Items

Answering on a scale

As a team, we have direct contact with our customers.

👍 👎

As a team, we maintain a trusting and cooperative relationship with our customers.

👍 👎

We scrutinize the intended customer benefit for every task.

👍 👎

Open questions

What communication channels do we as a team have with our customers?


Which decisions should we have discussed or reconsidered with customer satisfaction as our top priority?


For which of our topics was or is the customer benefit still too unclear?


What risks are there that could jeopardize the trust of our customers?


Conclusion: Amazon's Principle of Customer Obsession

Whether you call it customer orientation or customer obsession, a focus on the customer is essential for high-performance, agile organizations. It is not for nothing that Amazon places so much emphasis on this in its Leadership Principles.

In order to be successful, customer orientation must be continuously emphasized as a value and reflected in the daily work of the teams.

I can therefore only recommend that you carry out the "Customer Obsession Retro" with both your team and the managers in your company.

Bonus: Would you like to learn from other agile pioneers like Netflix?

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Need a team boost? Do this: The Spotify Health Check Retrospective!

First Health question: "😍 We love going to work, and have great fun working together."

Sounds good? Try our retro tool for free below.

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