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Home » Leadership

The ONE THING every company can learn (and apply) from Apple

Submitted by on Sunday, 6 June 2010No Comment

The Ipad’s out mostly to rave reviews, and last week Apple overtook Microsoft in terms of market capitalisation.

While people wonder about the magical money-making machine that is Apple, and others rave about Steve Jobs’ management capability, including no lesser figures than Rupert Murdoch, it would be a mistake to ignore the effectiveness of the ‘golden goose’ that is the organisation itself.

It’s not Jobs’ vision for the products that we need to appreciate most, but his vision for the corporate culture that creates them.

Take this excerpt from his recent interview:

I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to hang out with some of the most talented, committed people around, and together we get to play in this sandbox and build these cool products. Apple is an incredibly collaborative company. You know how many committees we have at Apple? Zero. We’re structured like a start-up. We’re the biggest start-up on the planet. And we all meet once a week to discuss our business.

What can other companies learn from this?

One key learning is that you do not need a complex organisational ‘system’ in order to thrive.

Apple’s core value driver is innovation. And you can’t have innovation without collaboration. And you can’t have collaboration without trust.

Too few companies trust their own people

When companies install elaborate systems, processes or competencies, one of the things they are saying, tacitly, is that they don’t trust their people.

These systems are like a loudhailer from above: ‘You must do this… You must behave this way…’. Usually, these systems are generalised, not specific, and rolled out on a global level. They’re usually created ‘inside out’ as opposed to ‘outside in’ – to serve management as opposed to the customer.

Customer Experience Training

Apple’s different. Mistakes aren’t prevented, they are encouraged (a key factor of innovation). People working there have a clear ‘shared vision’ for the customer they are trying to create, and use sandboxes to come up with new innovations to create them. Other organisations put in place complex systems, and these in turn become sandboxes for employees to try to figure out what the company wants them to be. They are akin to an admission that the company has no idea, outside-in, what the customer wants, and is unable to articulate that simply and in a truly actionable way.

Test your system now, using these three criteria

1. Is it Simple?

Look at your company’s KPIs, competencies and non-technical processes. Are they simple and easy-to-understand? For you? And for an emerging market front-liner?

2. Is it Specific?

Are the collection of the above specific to you, and to your situation, or are they generic and disconnected from you personally? Is what you are being asked to do based on reality, or on some ivory tower dream?

3. Is it Strategic?

Do your company’s processes and competencies clearly connect you to the customer, or is that connection somewhat fuzzy or downtight unclear?

‘We’re structured like a start-up’

When companies start putting in layers and layers of structure, systems and rules, the reasons they are really doing this for are sometimes as follows:

  • Senior management wants to cover itself in the case of something going wrong. ‘Hey, we told them what we wanted…’
  • HR feels it needs to do something new to justify its existence.
  • Senior management thinks HR needs something to do to justify its existence
  • Senior management doesn’t understand how to ‘get to hang out with some of the most talented, committed people around’, still less to hire them
  • Too few managers have been given the tools by senior management / HR to help select the ‘right’ people. Instead, mis-hires abound and people problems propagate, leading to the mistaken conclusions that more elaborate systems can correct the problem.

What you can do to get your system working for you

If you would like your system to help your people deliver on the company strategy, then feel free to contact us here.

  • We will start ‘outside-in’ with an analysis of your customer value drivers, and the present customer experience and your desired customer experience.
  • We will articulate this in the simplest way possible as ‘value’ and ‘engagement’ drivers
  • We will work from the front-line back, ensuring that the system supports and doesn’t hinder your employees, giving them tools not rules
  • We will ensure that your system creates a Customer Focus, not a fixation or fragmentation from a ‘company only’ perspective.

Contact us here for more details as to how you can make your company’s system more simple, specific and strategic.

Talent Technologies :: Taking your Talent to a Higher Level

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