management magic

There are some companies that exude management magic, and Apple is one of them. It is no coincidence that Apple is renowned as a great place to work. It is not because Apple is soft on its employees or slack in its expectations. The company demonstrates the power of managing its culture to create the conditions in which good people want to come to do their best work. (Jr. 28)

However, this was not always the case. Apple used to be the poor relation to the all-conquering Microsoft. It had so small a share of the market that hackers simply didn’t bother writing viruses to infect it. Decades ago, in 1977, we all but wrote off Apple and its hobbyist model. Then, and in the years since, we opted for the big business name brands of IBM and HP, and later, Dell and Toshiba. Now it is they who are playing catch up, as wave after wave of Apple innovation has swept through, crested by desirable ‘must-haves’ such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, and in laptops, the dazzling Macbook Pro — still the staple of product placement in avant-garde movies to show off the tech-savvy designer. There’s no doubt that Apple has produced some of the world’s most beautiful technology — elegant in shape and texture, robust in operation, and intuitive for the enthusiastic owner. The company’s sales tripled in five years.61

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Previously, the gramophone gave way to the transistor radio — which yielded to the Walkman — and now we are closer than ever to the holy grail of a device — one that captures music and videos off the internet, stores them, plays them and allows ordinary people to make extraordinary movies, and a lot more besides. Wait a minute! Perhaps Apple has the product out there already! Indeed, this is also a computer that grows with the market, updating itself as upgrades are posted, and adapting to user needs. Whatever will they think of next?

More particularly, how does Apple do it? How does it keep on doing it? It is said that Apple hires people who are never satisfied, who are emotional about technology, and who collaborate in the spirit — and pursuit of — perfection. Eschewing diversification as its risk management strategy, so commonly adopted in lesser firms,

operation and chic efficiency. Apple’s HR policy is to empower the source of its creativity — its people — and it gives them responsibility in managing its production and sales, and thus its outcomes. Every Monday the top management team review the last week’s operations, from the progress of each product under development to the success of each product in the market. The company is committed to continuous learning, and to continuous growth in capability and market share.

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When the global financial crisis hit, with its attendant economic downturn, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he would not lay people off because he had gone to such trouble to recruit good people in the first place, and that he would keep up his research and development budget to innovate his way through the recession. Clever. Courageous management decision, you might say, but it marks out Apple as one of the truly great management examples of this century. The runs are already on the board, and the company is going ahead to build a magnificent innings. Part of this is due to organisational culture, and much of this is due to one man. Indeed, founder Steve Jobs himself is the subject of adulation for his brash creativity as much as for his company’s technical wizardry.62

Apple stays fresh by hiring the right people, giving them the power to grow and developing them and their ideas, and pushing ahead in the quest for linking emotion and technology in products that are as sweet to look at as they are efficient to operate. Apple’s products excite the user and inspire adoring loyalty in customers and staff alike. It’s the company that just will not quit. Not every company can have that kind of management, or needs it. But almost every company can learn from it.

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1.       What lessons can be learnt from Apple’s management style and method?

2.       Is Apple only this good because it hooks onto trends that rise and fade away, creating disposable toys but nothing enduring, or are we witnessing something more significant in the way people can now relate to technology, and therefore blend technology into daily life like never before?

3.       Explain how the CVF is evident in Apple’s management style?

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