Not quite sure how to improve the efficacy of your meetings, influence your board, and get buy-in for your visions? Take a page (or, in this case, six pages) from Jeff Bezos and implement the company’s world-famous memo structure: the Amazon 6-Pager.
There’s an iconic quote from author and columnist Dave Barry:
“If I had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”
I think we’ve all experienced those tedious meetings of which Barry writes — the ones that burn through our time and do little to impact our bottom line.
And yet, whether you love or hate them, executive meetings remain a non-negotiable part of growing a successful business and getting buy-in when you need it most.
So, if we can’t avoid meetings, why not make them as efficient and impactful as possible?
That was the idea behind the influential 2004 email Jeff Bezos sent his senior team in which he explained the company would swap PowerPoint presentations for detailed, six-page narrative memos — aka, The Amazon 6-Pager.
You don’t have to be a billion-dollar company to incorporate the Amazon six-pager into your meeting structure.
I believe this business case example offers compelling advantages to any organisation ready to streamline growth, influence stakeholders, and minimise time spent in bloated, humdrum meetings. Let’s take a closer look.
What is the Amazon 6-Pager
Most CEOs meet regularly with their executive teams to discuss projects, evaluate marketing OKRs, and brainstorm marketing strategies. That’s great, but how does your team present this critical information in meetings?
For many organisations, each executive creates a PowerPoint presentation and runs through a slide deck sparsely filled with generic information. The presenter gets through their slides as quickly as possible — and often glosses over key information required to build alignment around project decisions.
The Amazon six-pager is Bezos’ response to the limitations of PowerPoint. It’s a narrative memo that swaps cookie-cutter slides for detailed and focused project descriptions and analysis.
At the start of a meeting, each executive reads the six-page memo in silence. Then, everyone discusses the project, and the best ideas move forward for testing and iteration.
The benefits of the Amazon Six-Pager
Want to quickly identify gaps in your logic or inconsistencies in your thinking?
Writing requires specificity — it forces you to think in-depth about the subject matter and, as a result, reveals logical disparities.
Don’t believe me? Write a 1000-word article (like this one) on any topic or project. You’ll learn to think about the subject deeply and differently and likely come to understand it better, too.
The biggest benefit of presenting project ideas in a narrative structure is that it promotes critical thinking and clarity. But there are other benefits to the Amazon Six-Pager, too:
Bolsters engagement and collaboration
Slide decks often get delegated to junior team members since they lack specificity and profound analysis of the subject matter. But a six-page narrative memo is dense.
So, many teams tackle the Amazon 6-pager together, delegating different sections to individual team members but collaborating as a group.
Upon presentation, the 6-pager invites team members to ask questions, provide feedback, and participate in decision-making. This makes the narrative memo a more interactive and engaging communication tool than traditional PowerPoints, which often serve as one-way monologues.
Aligns teams and stakeholders
The Amazon 6-Pager aligns teams and stakeholders by providing a common understanding of the project’s objectives, scope and deliverables. This creates a shared vision that leads to better outcomes and greater success.
In other words, with a narrative memo, everyone on the team gets the in-depth data they need to drive meaningful, results-oriented analysis.
Adapts to a wide array of situations
Here’s what I love most about the Amazon 6-Pager:
You can change and adapt the memo so that it works for your unique needs. Have a product launch approaching? Need to make operational improvements? Want to analyse a sales strategy or conduct a performance review?
The Amazon 6-pager is highly adaptable to any scenario where you need to convey complex information thoroughly yet efficiently.
The anatomy of an Amazon Six-Pager
Let’s explore the most common components of a six-page narrative memo (according to someone who worked for Amazon.)
You don’t need to follow this outline to the letter; however, I’ve found it a helpful jumping-off point for most clients and projects.
1. Introduction: Introduce the project clearly and succinctly so that executive team members immediately understand the directive of the 6-pager.
2. Goals: Clearly state the project initiative; note critical metrics like revenue targets, cost savings, or customer satisfaction goals.
3. Tenets: Outline the fundamental principles, values, or beliefs that guide the decision-making and execution of the project.
4. State of the business: Provide an in-depth overview of the company’s current state. This may include a SWOT analysis, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
5. Lessons learned: Use data to reflect on lessons learned from previous projects or initiatives; identify successes and failures, and outline what was learned from each.
6. Strategic priorities: This is the bulk of any six-pager. Use this section to explain how you plan to execute the project, making it crystal clear how these actions will achieve the goals outlined in Step 2.
You’ll notice most Amazon Six-Pagers don’t utilise a summary or conclusion. This is fluff. You’ve already explained all necessary points succinctly and compellingly — an additional overview is unnecessary.
As you can see, the power of an effective six-pager lies in the details and data. When you thoroughly outline and support your ideas throughout a six-page narrative memo, you quickly identify where there are gaps in your message. More importantly, you learn to fill those gaps with data-driven information.
At first glance, the Amazon Six-Pager can seem overwhelming and complicated. However, I believe the information gleaned from this business case marketing is well worth the effort.
Embrace the narrative memo, and you’ll learn to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely to get important buy-in on your projects. Plus, you’ll better analyse the steps required to propel your business forward, so you can scale what works — and quickly ditch what doesn’t.