How Meeting/Not-Meeting Goals relates to Earn Trust and Insist on Highest Standards

This week’s Amazon Leadership Principle tip is about how setting goals, and holding yourself accountable, relates to Earn Trust and Insist on Highest Standards.

One goal I took my fist year at Control4 was for every program in my org to fix three Broken Windows each quarter. Broken Windows are defined as:

A bug, defect, or missing feature directly impacting the customer experience that won’t normally get fixed due to resource constraints. The best examples of Broken Windows are things “we’ve known about forever, but just kept pushing down the priority list.” Broken Windows exist in products, code, our bug database, our knowledge management system, etc… The idea is to take pride in fixing them so the neighborhood is a great place to be. See: https://codeahoy.com/2016/05/02/software-rot-entropy-and-the-broken-window-theory/

We didn’t meet one quarterly goal so I had to set it to “Did Not Meet” (which always means RED as well) was painful for me. I had a pit in my stomach seeing a big RED blob in my list of 2019 goals. I knew I was going to see this every week for the rest of the year. It was awkward and embarrassing.

The reality is the organization came really, really close to hitting this goal. All but three teams met the goal, and those that missed only missed by one fix! Plus in some cases, we fixed far more than three! The goal was clearly defined, and *I* did not meet it. So I had to set the status accurately.

I could have done more in the weeks of the quarter to drive the team to be more buttoned-up on their goals that roll up to this one. I could have pushed PMs to take a hard one off their list and add an easier one. I also failed to fully document the Quarterly Broken Window Goals mechanism and thus there was some confusion about what it means to fix a BW (the BW must be fixed from the customer’s perspective). See how this relates to Earn Trust with the italic-bold below?

Earn trust – Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

I will only feel bad about a goal result like this until I’ve taken the steps to ensure I CAN’T feel bad about it NEXT TIME. Back when this happened, the next day I spent 20 minutes creating the Broken Window “user’s manual” wiki, for example. This way, when in the next quarter I was reminded to ask more questions and audit teams’ goals in such a way that we hit the goal.

Insist on Highest Standards – Leaders have relentlessly high standards—many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to comment if you have thoughts or questions.

1 comment


  1. Great post Charlie!, very wise advice.

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