Business tycoons agree that focus and effective time management are of the utmost importance for success. Whilst we have a passion for creativity, we also understand that sometimes reinventing the wheel is unnecessary, and adopting (or tweaking) some tried and tested methodology can heighten our productivity. As the richest man in modern history, Jeff Bezos is rightly considered a pioneer- and analyzing how he keeps his ventures in shape has proved useful for inspiring our own business mechanisms.
One strategy in particular stood out:
The Amazon Six Pager.
Bezos made the decision to ban Powerpoint (and similar) presentations, and instead move to the six-pager model. The concept behind this, is that Powerpoints often gloss over important details and focus too much on aesthetics than content; Meetings need to use time productively and have everyone involved focused and knowledgeable on the key content being discussed.
With visual presentations banned (unless strictly necessary), the six pager usage is (often) as follows:
1. Key team member chairing the meeting (or most responsible for the work that the meeting focuses upon) will produce the six page document ahead of the meeting.
2. The document will be shared with all meeting attendees in advance, to allow them to familiarize themselves with the subject matter.
3. The first 10-20 minutes of the meeting are spent in silence, as all attendees re-read the document in silence. The purpose of this is to focus everyone on the task at hand and proposed solutions.
4. The chair of the meeting will then run through the document out loud, asking and clarifying any input on each specified page/section. Leading to a discussion of the decision and largely the aim of a clear, agreed conclusion.
The success of the document is largely in the structure.
How to construct a six-pager
It is important to note that creating a 'one-size-fits-all' template is not useful. Every problem varies, so every six-pager should be bespoke to accurately address the topic at hand.
The recommended sections include:
- Purpose of document: Briefly outline the reason for the meeting, with a recommended solution briefly concluding this section. This is usually a concise paragraph.
- Narrative: Describe the background, guidelines and general framework for everyone to fully understand the problem. This should be told from the perspective of the target demographic/customer/user rather than the business decision makers.
- Problem: Outline the details of the problem in detail. Be sure to keep this section focused, as deviations can throw the meeting off-topic and cloud decision-making with trivial matter.
- Solutions: Include multiple ways the problem could be solved. It is important to write this as matter-of-fact. Bias should be avoided, to allow everyone to truly view the scenario objectively.
- Recommendation: Following from the solutions, put forward the suggested route with rationale. If point 4 has been articulated well, then a general consensus may have already been reached or at least create
- When possible add a plan of action assuming the proposed solution is agreed.
To support these 6 pages, appendices can be added with detailed tables, graphs and data. However, the purpose of the six pager is to lay out the information in carefully thought-out text. The reader should be guided through the situation with all relevant background and information to the decision at hand. Adding infographics into the middle of such a document would act as 'noise', and potentially derail the thinking process.
Formatting the Six Pager
To ensure the content is digestible , there are some tips we recommend. Firstly, and intuitively , keep the content to six pages maximum. The font needs to be easy to read, both in size and style. Structuring the document with well defined margins and paragraphs will undoubtably help. Lastly, yet importantly, consider using numbered lists if you have to use bullet points as it'll be easier to refer to particular points during a meeting; The Amazon 6-pager aims to avoid bullet points whenever possible as it can often discourage a more thoughtful approach to structuring data.
Keeping it simple with a standard word processing tool is sensible, but at Mäd we don't stop at the easiest idea. We opted to use Google Doc for our six-pagers to allow multiple team members access, to collaborate in real-time. Much like our decision to use Figma (linked below), Google Docs removes the burdensome organization of multiple versions of the same file; All comments and edits can be progressed in the same file with the ability to control who can change a file and who can purely view it. We're able to see who is viewing the document at any given time, which is particularly handy for conference calling.
Breaking the Rules
The 6-Pager was introduced to increase productivity, focus and clarity. As we mentioned before, there is no single template for every problem, therefore we recommend always building your documents from scratch.
There may be recommendations to keep it simple: avoid imagery; colours; unordered lists; aesthetic elements. However, knowing your audience -for whom the document is intended- and your brand, may inspire you to break some rules.
We inject simple flashes of our Mäd red, to make clean documents pop. It highlights our ability to solve problems intelligently, in an organized and professional manner.
Above all else, proof read your six-pager. Ensure that it objectively and concisely addresses the matter at hand, and be confident it is easy to understand. Know when to use this tool, as six pages of text is not the answer to every issue. Finally, don't shy away from redrafting the document entirely as often working through the narrative and potential solutions can challenge your own preconceptions of the problem.
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