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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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RE: a good CEO
By someguy123 on 5/9/2011 9:08:26 PM , Rating: 3
I agree that, when you're in those types of positions, you should be taking responsibility for all things below, and that Jobs has the right mindset for his underlings, but Apple's success is definitely not attributed to Job's behavior.

People seem to easily forget that the Apple of yesteryear struggled to survive, even when Jobs was at helm, all because Apple is currently in a dominant position. Apple's success can be attributed to their shift as a computer company to a branding and advertising company. Their products are so ingrained in society as "high end" that they are treated as such without question (I am not bashing their products, this is just the truth).

Jobs has the right idea, but he doesn't appear to take his own advice. He doesn't take any responsibility for his failures, unless you consider firing a fleet of employees taking responsibility. The mobileme incident is a good example, as well as the antennae incident. Massive bugs and general instability are not small, easily overlooked issues when launching a product, and in the antennae case he literally let it pass and then fired the designer who brought up the problem in the first place after it became a miniscandal. Thanks to their ironclad reputation within the general public, though, Job's lack of quality oversight has no effect on their bottomline.


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