Stay Start Up Hungry – Inside Apple – Chapter 4

For me, one of the best Chapters in the book…

Adam uses many examples of how SJ (Steve Jobs) drilled culture and acceptable behavior through the ranks at Apple and describes his fight against the bureaucracy that tends to cripple and slow organizations as they grow. SJ was fervent in his fight to maintain a start up type environment upon his return to Apple. Committee’s were banished and exchanged with “Directly Responsible Individuals” (DRI) so that EVERYONE knew who was responsible for what tasks and areas in the organization. Key employees would be pulled from one area/product line to another as deemed appropriate. Business chops were NOT required at Apple as the focus was on having all employees focussed obsessively on the specific thing that were exceptional at. Being a well rounded employee is neither required or frankly wanted. Be the best at YOUR THING. Don’t worry about P&L, don’t worry about convincing four layers of middle management that your idea was good (there IS NO middle management). The focus as a designer was on design…all else be damned, if you were in charge of product packaging, literally NOTHING else matters to you. Apple is not a breeding ground for Managers who want to run a P&L and be responsible for a division or a market…it just doesn’t exist within their entirely functional org structure alignment. Just think the biggest graphics thoughts you can and focus on being world class in your area.

Teams were isolated and teams were small at Apple. In part this was due to secrecy, in part to allow folks to focus on their own world and in part it was to ensure everyone had that insular start-up feeling. They were part of a large organization but felt very much like they were in their own little start-up. Apple would NEVER have 10 people on a team to accomplish what could be done with three people who work doggedly, are the best in the company and can focus.

Exec meetings run every week and all new ideas percolate to the Exec team where swift judgements are made and actioned. Communicate up and action down was the mantra.

Clear direction, individual accountability, a sense of urgency, constant feedback, clarity of mission…..all key Apple values and values that are not that dissimilar from the ones all of you hold true at your startups. Be direct, be focussed, be deadline oriented.

SJ felt assessing and hiring talent was critical in his model and played a major role in this function at Apple. One of the Steve-ism’s that Apple ran by was “A players hire A players, B players hire C players…we ONLY want A players here”

There are so many examples and ways in this Chapter that give us thoughts and ideas of how to go about changing the way work is done in our larger organizations. Not all of these will work at all companies but there are some that are really great ideas that we should ALL be looking at and implementing in our organizations.

Are you a start-up, can you learn from Apple’s ways as you lay the groundwork for the future? As you struggle to drive innovation and big thinking in your company…use some of Apples examples and look at how you structure your teams, your organization and align them more closely with a start up model. It will allow you to grow focus, evaluate talent and make quicker decisions.

Sit down and think again about structure and focus and culture and make sure you have a deliberate plan…don’t just ‘let things happen’.

If we are not moving forward, we are moving backward…there is no standing still.
Where are you??

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