It has been almost a year since Amazon surprised the world with plans for a second North American headquarters, with no word yet about where it will end up. But in a new interview, Jeff Bezos offers insights into a topic relevant to Amazon HQ2 — explaining how the company’s approach lends itself to working across multiple geographies.
In short, Bezos says, teams don’t need to be in the same physical location to be effective anymore, as long as they follow the right formula.
In a wide-ranging interview for a Forbes cover story published today, Amazon’s chief executive told Forbes that when two teams are collaborating, “what you want is those two groups to have infrequent meetings and set a roadmap of the future.” Bezos added, “if you organize correctly, people do not have to be in the same building or the same city or even the same time zone, because you can work off a roadmap.”
The tech giant is already highly distributed, with fulfillment centers and engineering operations across the country and around the world, but a full second headquarters will be the ultimate test of Bezos’ prescription for collaboration across geographies.
One year ago this week, Amazon announced the search for a second headquarters location, equal in size to the first, that could ultimately accommodate 50,000 employees. Hundreds of cities submitted proposals, and in January, Amazon narrowed the field to 20 finalists. All but one of them, Los Angeles, is in a different time zone that Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
The company’s approach to its growth in Seattle and to its HQ2 search contrasts with the long-term planning that it does in other parts of its business.
Few people expected the company to expand as quickly as it has in Seattle over the past decade, growing to more than 50,000 employees in Washington state, most of them at its downtown Seattle headquarters. In the past year, Amazon has been visiting potential HQ2 cities, collecting additional information, and weighing a decision slated to be announced by the end of the year.
In other areas of its business, the company is famous for planning years into the future, as Bezos underscored in the Forbes interview.
“I very rarely get pulled into the today,” he said. “I get to work two or three years into the future, and most of my leadership team has the same setup.” Bezos went on to say that when friends congratulate him on a strong quarter, he tells them that success was planned years in the past. “I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now,” he said.
On the tech front, Amazon has been beefing up its own tools for collaboration, launching a meeting and conferencing tool called Chime last year, an outgrowth of the company’s acquisition of Biba, a San Francisco-based maker of chat, video and audio conferencing tools for businesses.