Amazon is an iconic company and a trailblazer that does not need an introduction. Year after year, the company beats its records: in 2020, there are 150 million Amazon Prime (a fast, subscription-based delivery service) subscribers (Mohsin, 2020). The company’s revenue in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to $75.5 billion (Mohsin, 2020). Amazon is a large employer with a whopping 840,000 employees globally as of 2020. Human capital is what makes Amazon the successful, disruptive innovator that it is right now, which is why it is especially compelling to analyze its controlling management and its functions. As a current employer of one of Amazon’s European offices, I can provide my perspective from the standpoint of a Junior Data Analyst. This paper discusses the role of controlling management in Amazon’s IT/ Big Data department in Europe, its advantages, and its disadvantages.
Big data is one of the domains where Amazon takes the lead and dominates the scene. Data science, and namely, recommendation-based systems, predictive analytics, and user tracking, have helped Amazon to remain at the top after more than twenty years on the market. At the office where I am currently employed, the highest controlling management positions related to data science and analytics are the Head of Advanced Analytics and Data Science Manager. People in this position not only have advanced knowledge in statistics, mathematics, and programming but are also skilled in management and leadership.
The function of controlling management at any organization is to monitor the work of subordinates, ensure the achievement of goals, and steer the business unit in the right direction. In the context of my office, individuals in management positions develop actionable plans that meet the current needs of the company. For instance, if the European office requires the identification of patterns regarding customer behavior, the managers communicate the goals, vision, and deliverables.
At my current place of employment, controlling management seems to have struck a balance between control and promotion of personal initiative. When it comes to data analytics, micromanagement can be not only discouraging but downright detrimental to the results and the health of the department in the long run (Mishra et al., 2019). Apart from technical skills, an important prerequisite for being a data analyst is the desire to gain insights from unstructured data to inform business decisions. Micromanagement is likely to harm employees’ natural drive and curiosity, which is why this type of leadership is uncommon at my office and other Amazon offices I have heard of.
In the broader context, Amazon promotes respectful and trusting leadership: the company’s culture encourages leaders to listen and delegate instead of watching employees’ every step. Trust, authenticity, and loyalty are critical to building relationships between leaders and followers. In my opinion, being candid is especially relevant when it comes to managing data analysts. The nature of this profession gives specialists an edge in interrogating things and asking questions. Therefore, if management attempts to conceal certain aspects from employees, they might as well unveil the truth and come to the realizations independently.
In data analytics, it is not rare to witness a person putting excessive emphasis on the theoretical side of modeling while forgetting what needs the model is supposed to serve in the context of the company. In this case, managers should intervene and connect ongoing projects to the business. This is consistent with one of the key Amazon leadership principles titled “Bias for Action.” The official wording of the said principle goes as follows: “Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking (“AWS culture,” 2020).” In terms of data analytics, the indefinite refinement of a model should not happen at the expense of speed, which is ensured through controlling management. Surely, there are situations when stakeholders themselves cannot quite answer what the final result should look like. It is nothing unnatural: the large part of data analysis is exploratory, and negative results are as valuable as positive results. In this case, managers at my office make adjustments and change the initial plan to accommodate for the unpredictable.
Another function of controlling management at my current place of employment is defining the scope of work responsibilities. Data analytics as it is now a young, rapidly changing field. As of now, some businesses are still confused about what the role of a data analyst entails. A good manager should be able to explain the team’s role to the rest of the organization to avoid the delegation of unrelated tasks. For instance, if a data analyst has computer programming skills, it does not mean that he or she should overtake software development or web development at the expense of their primary work responsibilities. In a way, the controlling management function manifests itself through “insulating” the team and defining its role in alignment with the organization’s needs.
As seen from the description above, the controlling management at my current workplace fulfills its key functions. Firstly, it defines and delegates responsibilities to team members following the company’s needs. Secondly, it sets short-term and long-term goals for the department and the rest of the organization. These deliverables inform minor business decisions and steer the course of the company’s development. The needs of the stakeholders guide the pace of the realization of data analysis projects and optimize their delivery. Aside from that, managers build trusting and respectful relationships with employees, creating a space for creativity, exploration, and personal initiative. In summation, the management at my office has found the middle ground between the laissez-faire attitude and micromanagement, which deserves acknowledgment and recognition.
At the same time, not a single company is completely devoid of faults and shortcomings. While generally, managers at my Amazon office demonstrate excellent performance and approach problems with a sense of rationality, there are still some growth areas that need to be addressed. One of the aspects that frustrate employees from time to time is the prioritization of criticism over harmony. Managers are straightforward, which spares a lot of effort that could have been wasted on second-guessing. However, the downside of such an approach is the hurt feelings of employees and a decrease in personal motivation to advance the company. Another problem that stems from this characteristic of the leadership at my office is unreasonably high standards for employees. On the one hand, having such standards accounts for a better discipline and work ethic. On the other hand, from my personal experience, they are often disruptive to work and life balance, which in turn, can hurt employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.
AWS culture. (2020). Web.
Mishra, N., Rajkumar, M., & Mishra, R. (2019). Micromanagement: An Employers’ Perspective. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, 8(10), 2949-2952.
Mohsin, M. (2020). 10 Amazon statistics you need to know in 2020 [Infographic]. Web.