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Friday, 07 October 2011 00:00
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When a company’s stock rises more than 9,000% in the 14 years after a chief returns, and recovers most of the 3-4% immediate fall after his death, as is the case with Steve Jobs and Apple, it’s obvious the market believes that Jobs has left an organisation that has a lot more than just him. Jobs revolutionised every business he was in. He introduced Apple II when he was 21, created the Mac, the NeXT operating system and, of course, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad—it speaks volumes for how these completely changed the face of various industries that most have forgotten Pixar and what it did to animation.


But none of these—I think I have five more great products, he told Esquire’s Joe Nocera almost prophetically 25 years ago—could have been created without a strong organisation. Yet, Jobs turned on its head every principle that modern management holds dear. He was a great visionary and much more, but Jobs was tyrannical (most of the email team that worked on the iPhone was disbanded when critics panned it after gushing over the new iPhone), wasn’t a consensus-builder, had no time for market research (“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”), and was a micro-manager of the worst possible type. Fortune had a great piece on Apple (http://tech.fortune.cnn.com /2011/08/25/how-apple-works-inside-the-worlds-biggest-startup) detailing how Jobs, the “corporate dictator who makes every critical decision—and oodles of seemingly non-critical calls too” designed the shuttle bus that ferried employees to deciding the food to be served in the cafetaria.

So what was the Jobs glue? There are lots of how-Steve-did-it out there and lots of folksy stories of how Jobs was big on experimentation —remember the “he’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger” on Bill Gates? A few lessons in management stand out. Every Monday, Jobs is quoted as having said, “we review the whole business … every single product under development … eighty percent is the same as it was last week … just to all stay on the same page.” Each agenda item has a ‘directly responsible individual’ on it. In other words, there’s near 24x7 feedback to each employee on each project. That’s why Apple remains as scrappy as a start-up (and why it shows similar quarterly returns) and why staffers are fighting for resources—the extreme competition is probably best exemplified by the fact that Jobs himself got kicked out of a company he’d co-founded and got called back only because he had something to contribute. That’s the biggest lesson for companies, indeed countries—separation of ownership from control is critical, that you’re judged by what you’ll do NeXT, not the Jobs you’ve completed. That’s how you stay hungry, stay foolish.

Last Updated ( Friday, 25 November 2011 12:32 )

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