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Steve Jobs proved his dark side powers by bringing Apple back from the dead -- a seemingly impossible feat.  (Source: Fortune)
Clearly Jobs has little mercy for incompetence

Love him or hate him, you have to admit Steve Jobs was responsible for almost single-handedly righting the ship at Apple, Inc. (AAPL), saving the company from bankruptcy.  Thanks to a revitalized Mac lineup and an armada of i-devices, Apple has surpassed Microsoft in profits and market cap and gained dominant positions in a couple of critical sectors, including online music and tablets.

So how did Mr. Jobs accomplish the seemingly Herculean task of fixing the badly broken company?  If a new report is to be believed, the answer may be -- by acting as an exacting and unforgiving "dictator".

It's little secret that working at Apple is one of the toughest assignments one can take on professionally.  But Fortune magazine's Adam Lashinsky offers all the juicy details regarding why that is the case.

According to the report Jobs gives every incoming vice president at the company a speech on why they cannot rely on "excuses" and "reasons".  He says these things are important for hourly employees, but unacceptable for managers.  Writes Mr. Lashinsky:

Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. "When you’re the janitor," Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, "reasons matter." He continues: "Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering." That "Rubicon," he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP."

And Mr. Jobs was true to his word -- he accepted no excuses for poor performance.  The story recalls the launch of the iPhone 3G with MobileMe in 2008.  MobileMe was supposed to be a service that synced your calendars and more to an online cloud for accessibility from anywhere.  But at launch the service proved ugly, marred by crashes and bugs.

Mr. Jobs called an emergency Town Hall meeting with all members of the MobileMe team.  Outraged at the problems, he complained that the MobileMe team was "tarnishing Apple's reputation" and that they "should hate each other for having let each other down."  He added, "[The Wall Street Journal's Walt] Mossberg, our friend, is no longer writing good things about us."

Writes Mr. Lashinsky:

An exasperated Mr. Jobs remarked "Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?"

Having received a satisfactory answer, he continues, "So why the f*** doesn't it do that?"

Mr. Jobs then cleaned house, relieving all the MobileMe managers of their duties and installing new managers on the spot.

In the kingdom of Jobs every Monday the chief meets with executives to review every important meeting.  On Wednesday the company holds its marketing and communications meetings.  

At Apple those meetings represent the ying -- technical professionals -- and yang -- creative professionals.  Apple gives its creative professionals as much license as its technical professionals, or more, in some cases.  For example the head of Apple's online content has no control over what images get posted to Apple's website -- that's almost entirely in the hands of the company's graphic artists.  

And it offers those artists a virtual blank check to "perfect" projects -- for example it hired Hollywood camera crews to film a pair of fake weddings in Hawaii and San Francisco (the San Francisco one used Apple employees as extras) for iMovie.  The iMovie soundtracks were contracted, at great expense, to the London Symphony Orchestra.

Despite the sometimes conflicting interests of the technical and creative staff, there's seldom clashes, thanks to Apple's carefully spelled out documents which detail the DRI ("directly responsible individual") for every item in a project.

All of this precision gets back to Mr. Jobs.  Writes Mr. Lashinsky:

The creative process at Apple is one of constantly preparing someone — be it one's boss, one’s boss’s boss, or oneself — for a presentation to Jobs. He's a corporate dictator who makes every critical decision — and oodles of seemingly noncritical calls too, from the design of the shuttle buses that ferry employees to and from San Francisco to what food will be served in the cafeteria.

Given Mr. Jobs health problems, their leader's eventual demise is a thought that has plagued many at Apple.  

Mr. Jobs, himself, reportedly handpicked the dean of Yale's School of Management, Joel Podolny, to both head Apple University (Apple's internal training programs), and lead a group of business professors (many of whom were from Harvard) to collect case studies to be used after the CEO's death.  Mr. Job's goal is to make sure that even when he dies, that he lives on in the company's leadership and management style. 

Fortune magazine's app is available for free here for Apple iOS devices.  The latest issue with the full report can be bought as an in-app purchase for $4.99.  It's free for the publication's subscribers.

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By Commodus on 5/9/2011 10:45:35 AM , Rating: 3
Invariably, someone's going to come into this post and insist that Jobs is an evil, evil person for doing this... and will forget why Apple is succeeding where Microsoft and RIM are falling flat.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is known for sometimes laying down the law, but he's also infamous for being too soft on failure and refusing to fire an executive unless there's a major incident. Executives can fail spectacularly at a project and just take on a role of similar importance at another project. Roz Ho wasn't doing well at the MacBU, so where does she go? The Kin phones. We know how that ended.

And RIM... well, that desire not to offend anybody is why you have two CEOs, multiple executives with similar roles, and a directionless company. It's all about having something nice to say and not about actually making a good product.

Sometimes, you have to crack down to spur people to do better. Jobs knows this, and even Google's Larry Page seems to get this in a way Eric Schmidt didn't.

By kattanna on 5/9/2011 11:34:43 AM , Rating: 4
yep, and when jobs finally leaves apple, i fully expect the company to suffer for it.

By icanhascpu on 5/9/2011 3:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt that. Jobs has employed a large set of people and filtered and forged them to make a company that understands business and how to spearhead new markets to the point their devices nearly become synonymous with the general term of the device.

By rtk on 5/10/2011 1:36:17 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure you've read this article.

By Calin on 5/10/2011 2:43:59 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, but all those people might leave the company (or be thrown out) if Steve Jobs is no longer there and the Board of Directors will take hasty decisions from a reason or other (future possible antitrust litigation from the U.S.? A seemingly "flop"? A quarter with not so good prospects? The first quarter when Apple doesn't beat analysts expectations?)
Many good companies were broken by their shareholders' meetings and decisions, and Apple could still become one.

By priusone on 5/9/2011 11:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
It amazes me to watch corporate and/or government employment practices. It sucks when competent employees have to rely on an incompetent manager getting promoted out of their section before they can get a great manager who can truly lead them. Or the employee who will sabotage others work so he or she looks better. I kinda like how each project has the responsible parties name right on it. Sounds like the 'Good ol Boy' club would have a hard time working at Apple, but I could be wrong.

By paydirt on 5/9/2011 12:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Who knows?

All I know is that I endeavor to live without excuses. I don't believe in excuses. Either make things happen or don't and live with whatever consequences there are.

By maven81 on 5/9/2011 11:50:46 AM , Rating: 5
I would agree that apple has been successful because of jobs, but not because he cracks the whip, rules with an iron fist, or has this fall on your sword mentality. Keep in mind two things, first he's always been like that, and in the early 80s caused some spectacular failures. Second he's not the only CEO with this kind of attitude, remember Carly Fiorina? She almost completely derailed HP.

The reason apple has been successful is quite frankly because Jobs is a BS artist. (How quickly people forgot the Intel "slug" ads when Intel became apple's best friend, or the fact that Jobs poo-pooed video on handheld devices, raved about a 3ghz power pc chip that never materialized and on and on). The margins on their products are higher then most tech companies I can think of (except maybe those that sell printer ink?), thanks to their marketing about how their products are magical, revolutionary and so on.
Jobs also has a knack for stealing ideas and pretending he invented them. Or he simply buys companies that came up with a technology he wants (take multitouch for example). One could keep going here, but you get the idea. He's simply the best snake oil salesman that ever lived. So in the end this has nothing to do with making better products or anything like that.

By Commodus on 5/9/2011 1:46:34 PM , Rating: 2
Windows revenue declined in the most recent quarter. Its phone market share is declining *despite* Windows Phone 7 (which I like). The company so very clearly wants to be in mobile, both phones and tablets -- Windows 8's main thing will be a tablet-optimized UI.

Apple now outpaces Microsoft in market cap, revenue, and profit, and it sold more tablets in nine months than all of Microsoft's partners did in eight years from when Tablet PC hit in 2002, even with Gates' personal obsession with forcing pen-based tablet computing into the mainstream.

A good business never assumes it can ride a successful business for all eternity. That's you're doing. Windows will forever be successful... until the industry changes and it's suddenly not that important. Ask RIM how well it's doing by assuming its supremacy in mobile corporate e-mail would last forever. Acer's PC market share collapsed because it kept assuming people would "come to their senses" and drop their iPads to buy Aspire One netbooks forever.

The key is not how many people you fire; it's that you chew people out if they fall short, and if an employee continually shows no signs of getting better, you fire them. You don't do what Microsoft does and keep them circulating in the company until they retire or commit an unforgivable offense. Do you think Kin would have ever survived getting to the store as-is in Apple's corporate structure?

By Gzus666 on 5/9/2011 2:27:53 PM , Rating: 2
Why do you always fail at reading comprehension? He didn't claim "Microsoft fails", he stated Apple is better where they fall short. If you really think their mobile business is going well so far, you have blinders on. I have never used the product, so I can't comment on that, but clearly it isn't selling that well.

The point is, just cause you are a giant today, doesn't mean you won't become irrelevant tomorrow. Like it or not, Apple products are moving into businesses very quickly. Most engineers I see, many of them software, are using Macintosh. We aren't talking little companies here either. Cisco is moving almost entirely to Mac. The server space is also moving away from Microsoft with Linux/Unix slowly being phased in instead of Microsoft. Cisco used to use Windows Server for their call platforms and many of their other products, that is no longer the case. Most companies are migrating away from Microsoft when they make their own platform.

The point is, Microsoft really needs to fill in the gaps in a changing world. Their old business model isn't going to work forever. People want tablets cause let's face it, most people don't do anything that useful that requires a full fledged computer most of the time anyway. As for the nerds, clearly OSX is appealing to them since it is a Unix back end with a compatible front end for most programs. All the joys of *nix without the hassles.

Microsoft's old model of everyone upgrading their Windows version every time they buy a computer is under siege if Mac keeps growing at the rate it is now. Companies are allowing Apple products into the ecosystem and many people are going to start taking them. With how Apple kicks people out when they get into power, they may end up designing their own office suite (iOffice, I'm going to have to patent that quickly) and then leaving MS out of the desktop space. Honestly the only thing keeping MS wedged in the corporate world at that point would be AD and Exchange.

By Gzus666 on 5/10/2011 9:39:50 AM , Rating: 3
I think this is wishful thinking on your part. You seem to blindly hate the company so much that you fail to see they are a real competitor. I want MS to keep competing so we still have a full market. Saying Apple does badly with hardware is clearly biased, as they do just fine with hardware.

You are correct, they still don't have a massive business sector share, but they are moving up very quickly. I seem to remember Android having a laughable share of the phone market and was said to be going nowhere against the mighty RIM and Apple, oh how the mighty have and will fall.

I work with people who use OSX and they never touch Windows. Believe it or not, that isn't a requirement anymore. If it wasn't for the obnoxious buttons on the left side of the window just to be different and the weird menu system, I would probably be using it too. There are probably customizations I could do, but I haven't cared enough to look yet. An OS is a means to an end, not a damn sports team. You use whatever works best for you and it is starting to look like OSX works better for a lot of people.

I know deep down you want MS to win cause you basically a MS fanboy. It shows through in everything you say. You even go against the basic facets of capitalism just for them. The market is speaking and they like Apple more, get over it, you aren't on the MS board and you don't win anything if they do better.

By Guspaz on 5/10/2011 3:08:01 PM , Rating: 2
Let's be fair, OSX's buttons aren't on the left side to be obnoxious, they're there because they've BEEN there since 1984 when MacOS first shipped, and they were there before on the Apple Lisa from 1983, on which development started in 1978. People often seem to forget that the Lisa/Mac operating system was around before Windows. It's not a matter of wanting to be different, it's a matter of "if it ain't broke" and UI continuity.

By Da W on 5/9/2011 3:26:41 PM , Rating: 2
We should stop comparing Apple and Microsoft. Apple rely as much on computers than Microsoft does on phones. One is hardware, one is software. They evolved to be different companies.

Microsoft does fail on MANY MANY attempts to copy successful products, and they don't really create anything new. Sure the past 2 years have been different with Windows 7 office 2007&2010, windows phone 7 and xbox Kinnect. These are good products. But they don't all sell well.

By Calin on 5/10/2011 3:01:55 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe because Office 2000 and Office 2003 and Windows XP (and even Windows Vista, in its late incarnations) are "good enough" products for a lot of people. As hardware slowly became "good enough" for many people, so has software. I'm using Firefox 4 and 3, but I still find Firebird 0.7 (the predecessor to Firefox) completely usable for many tasks.

By robinthakur on 5/10/2011 6:12:16 AM , Rating: 3
Apple is not surviving, it is thriving in a way Microsoft can only remember. Look to the investors and they can see the swiftly declining returns from Microsoft and its halved capital resources spent on nothing of consequence.

Once they don't own the OS on your device, they cease to be important or valuable to the end user. Microsoft is not a phone company, or a music company. They also aren't a tablet company (in the successful form of tablets anyway) They have completely lost out in the mobile device category, which is growing exponentially whereas the traditional home pc market has been in the doldrums for a long time, yet they continue to throw good money after bad either for appearances sake, that they can't afford to be seen as being left behind, or to prevent the whole market forgetting they exist.

Microsoft have proven time and again, even when they do have a good product that they don't know how to market it to the intended audience or they don't have the confidence. See Zune, Kin, Vista, Windows Phone 7, tablet PC's, the list is getting quite long, and the effect this must have on their employees is palpable.

Yes they have Windows Phone 7, but when even your good self, who appears to be a rabid fanboy says it's "honestly pretty decent" that is why they are failing. Pretty good gets left behind real quickly when the marketplace is so crowded. There is also the fact that MS have failed so many times in the past in the consumer space that the public are reluctant to give them another try. Instead they should have made a version more palatable to business. It would have done really well with its sharepoint integration, but if they can't even see that, what can one do?

Managers are not regular joes making an honest wage. They are extremely well remunerated when they succeed, so the price for failure should be equally high. If more managers were treated in that way in the financial sector, you might find we aren't in the mess we're all in.

By xaders on 5/10/2011 2:35:13 PM , Rating: 2
apple is taking what old & is new again with the right timing and this is the same with google. microsoft doesnt have leadership or someone who is a " visionary " ie; apple has steve job, google has larry page, facebook has mark zuckerberg which all are the founders of the company. microsoft got left to " stupid " steve ballmar who just sit there & not a good promoter.

the roles are reserved in just 10 years because in the 2000s, if there was a press conference & what would get attention was bill gates & steve jobs. now, it is still steve jobs and add larry & mark into the picture. in this age of who can make a build "mouse trap" in the cat & mouse product cycle. just hope that microsoft dont become legacy like ibm is. it is no longer " Wintel ," which both companies has problem launching product in mobile products or markets because of legacy & high power devices. also, maybe a decade of anti-trust might play a role in it because microsoft is no longer made up of engineers & instead lawyers.

id would continue have microsoft & windows but when it coming to mobile like cell phones, ill used google & htc ones. id have an macbook pro with dual with both osx & windows 7. hope that microsoft get it act together & change or adapt.

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