There is an interesting article about Apple in the latest edition of Fortune magazine. If you don’t want to buy the magazine you can download just the article to your PC from Amazon (you don’t need a Kindle).
Apple is the world’s current poster company. It does cool things, it makes heaps of money, it has disciples not customers, and it’s run by one very intriguing guy, Steve Jobs.
This article tries to get behind some of that mystique he has created, and if anything it makes him seem even more different and ‘out there’.
First thing that strikes you; when it comes to wrapping its employees in ‘come to work’ benefits Apple is no Google. There’s no free anything, because Apple is so admired for its great products you should want to work here.
Second is how focused the organisation is on producing ’Apple Cool’ everything. Jobs, through his incredible track record and legendary status creates the idea that people have to work to very high standards, to Apple standards. This creates a meritocratic, aspirational and competitive peer group. Jobs takes this top cadre of 100 people and lavishes special attention on them with an exclusive yearly retreat, where of course you are expected to excel. And to keep people on their toes he changes the composition of this group each year.
Next is how hard Jobs works in turning complexity of ideas into simple elegant products produced by a highly accountable, simply organised business. No difficult to understand, multiple reporting lines here, just clear DRIs (people with Direct Line Responsibility). VPs on appointment are told by Jobs not to look for reasons to explain failure (that’s for Janitors).
Apple doesn’t look for synergies but for unified purpose, which, when scaled up delivers real business momentum.
Finally it’s the legacy issue. Jobs has created a high-powered group to basically capture, through a series of case studies, Apple’s secret sauce. By codifying the corporate memory they can inculcate others in to their ways of thinking and working.
When will Apple misstep? Will they thrive post Steve Jobs (he doesn’t enjoy good health)? What happens when competitors wake up and get going? These are questions Steve Jobs doesn’t seem to directly focus on. To him, it comes down to the next product and how cool can they make it, and if that new device again connects with a currently unarticulated customer need, then Apple is doing its job.