The CEO’s Biggest Product Launch is His Company’s Culture
Posted by Bob Warfield on August 25, 2011
By now you will have heard the news: Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple, Tim Cook will take over, and Jobs will carry on as Chairman of the Board.
Inevitably, the discussion about what this means for Apple going forward is underway. It’s clear that Jobs has been the creative leader of Apple, the man that made the iPhone and iPad, not to mention the Mac. He’s the man that started the Tsunami of a sea change we see underway today. The “notebook effect” that has PC makers from HP on down wondering what it means, whether they should even be in the business, and what the way is to move forward if they do, is due to Jobs. He is the man who made Apple the enormously valuable juggernaut it is through product, business models, strategies, brand, style, and moxie. There can be no question a guy like that will be missed, even if he is still available to consult. You can’t lead through consultation. A consultant can’t be the dynamo that tirelessly injects the energy into the organization that it thrives on.
In answer to the question, “What does this mean for Apple’s future?”, there can be only one reply:
Apple is not about to test its succession plan, Tim Cook, or any other single executive.
Apple is about to test whether its Culture has the right stuff to carry on without Steve Jobs’ hand on the tiller.
That’s a tall order. I don’t know if Jobs has successfully created a culture that can do it, or not. But I do know that for any CEO, their biggest and most important “product” is not anything recognizable like the Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Rather, it is the Culture they have put into place. In the end, no one person can do it all, and the greater the success, the less likely it is all because of one man, however visionary and brilliant he may be. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone as extraordinary as Steve Jobs hasn’t missed that point. He can’t have helped but surround himself with people who understand. Apple can’t have started so many successful revolutions without a revolutionary culture.
I’d like to leave you with a selection of quotes from the Wall Street Journal that I think make the point that Steve Jobs has created a Culture that can endure.
“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on something, but working on Macintosh was the neatest experience of my life. Almost everyone who worked on it will say that. None of us wanted to release it at the end. It was as though we knew that once it was out of our hands, it wouldn’t be ours anymore. When we finally presented it at the shareholders’ meeting, everyone in the auditorium gave it a five-minute ovation. What was incredible to me was that I could see the Mac team in the first few rows. It was as though none of us could believe we’d actually finished it. Everyone started crying.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
Q: There’s a lot of symbolism to your return. Is that going to be enough to reinvigorate the company with a sense of magic?
“You’re missing it. This is not a one-man show. What’s reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there’s a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they’re not losers. What they didn’t have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” [Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998]
“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.
“But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. [BusinessWeek, Oct. 12, 2004]
“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people––as remarkable as the telephone.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.” [Wired, February 1996]
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
“I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back. [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]