Apple is one of those organizations that are so globally well known it is almost impossible to find somebody who has not heard of it. It is one of the largest profitable companies in the world, enabling it to go from having 8,000 people and $7 billion in revenue in 1997 to having 137,000 employees and $260 billion in revenue in 2019. Apple company culture is amidst one of the things that had an impact on companies huge success.
Yet to this day there are many theories about the organizational structure and associated leadership model of Apple. Therefore we decided to find Apple’s original statement on their company culture and see what it’s really about.
In this article let’s get to know Apple company culture as well as its strenghts and weaknesses.
The return of Steve Jobs
In 1997, Apple had a standard corporate structure when Jobs returned as a CEO. It was broken up into different business divisions, each with its own P&L (profit and loss statement) duties. It resulted in managers arguing with one another, as is frequently the case with decentralized company groups. They argued specifically over transfer prices.
Jobs fired all of the business units’ general managers in his first year back as CEO. He did so because he thought traditional management had hampered innovation. He then put the entire firm under one P&L. Then consolidated the diverse functional departments of the business units into one functional organization.
It might have been unsurprising for a firm of Apple’s scale at the time. It is astonishing that Apple still uses it today, in fact. Despite the fact that the company’s income has nearly quadrupled and it is much more complex now than it was in 1998.
Three leadership characteristics
Apple’s dedication to a useful organization does not imply that its organizational structure has remained the same. The structure has changed as the significance of artificial intelligence and other emerging fields has grown. Another thing that had to change is the leadership characteristics.
Apple’s managers are expected to possess three essential leadership qualities, which have been in demand ever before Steve Jobs introduced the functional organization.
The leadership characteristics are what follows:
- deep expertise that allows them to meaningfully engage in all the work being done within their individual functions;
- immersion in the details of those functions;
- a willingness to collaboratively debate other functions during collective decision-making.
When managers possess these qualities, choices are co-made by those who are best suited to make them.
Apple is a corporation where experts lead experts rather than a company where general managers supervise other managers. It is believed that training an expert to manage effectively is simpler than training a manager to be an expert. It’s unusual, yet at Apple, software specialists manage software, hardware experts handle hardware, and so on.
Steve Jobs came to the conclusion that managers at Apple should be experts in their area of management.
In a 1984 interview he said the following,
“We went through that stage in Apple where we went out and thought, Oh, we’re gonna be a big company, let’s hire professional management. We went out and hired a bunch of professional management. It didn’t work at all… They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody you can’t learn anything from? And you know what’s interesting? You know who the best managers are? They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager but decide they have to be…because no one else is going to…do as good a job.Steve Jobs
Experts leading experts in a functional organization means that specialists build a strong bench in a particular field where they can learn from one another.
Immersion in details
“Leaders should know the details of their organization three levels down,” is one notion that underlies Apple. It is crucial for quick and efficient cross-functional decision-making at the highest levels. Managers must either make a choice without the information or postpone it if they attend a meeting where a decision will be made without it.
Of course, many company executives assert that their teams and they are well-versed in the specifics. Yet Apple is a rare case. It has significant effects on how Apple is run to have leaders who are experts and authorities in their fields and can dig deeply into the specifics.
Leaders are able to spot a problem immediately. They are aware of the crucial details and where to concentrate their attention. Working with experts, who offer better mentoring than a general manager would, is liberating, even thrilling, in the eyes of many Apple employees. Everybody can work together to perform the best work of their lives in the field they have chosen.
Willingness to collaboratively debate
Apple has hundreds of specialized teams spread around the organization. And what’s interesting is that dozens of them can be required for even one crucial part of a brand-new product offering. The company works as a mechanism where every employee matters significantly.
People from various departments participate in Apple’s collaborative discourse, dispute, push back, support or reject ideas, and build on one another’s ideas to produce the greatest answers.
Senior executives and experts need to be flexible in this regard. Additionally, it calls for such leaders to encourage, push, or persuade subordinates in other departments to help them achieve their objectives.
Over the past two decades, Apple’s organizational strategy has produced a ton of innovation and success. And we are certain that Apple company culture has had a tremendous impact on that.
Advantages vs weaknesses of Apple company culture
The main characteristics of Apple’s corporate culture are top-notch excellence; creativity; innovation, secrecy and moderate combativeness.
Overview of Apple’s advantages
Apple’s organizational culture, which combines top-notch excellence, creativity, and innovation, supports the company’s position as an industry leader. The company is widely regarded as a pioneer in product design and invention. That is particularly in the field of consumer electronics.
These previously mentioned cultural traits enable Apple and its people resources to differentiate themselves from the competition and maintain an edge.
One of the primary business strengths identified in Apple Inc.’s SWOT analysis is its corporate culture, which fosters success, competitive advantages, and brand building. Despite fierce competition from companies like Samsung, creativity and quality are particularly crucial in the company’s quick innovation processes for continued competitiveness and corporate development.
Overview of Apple’s weaknesses
The emphasis on secrecy at Apple presents some difficulties. Employee morale may be harmed or limited by a culture of secrecy. That can also limit or weaken rapport among coworkers. These cultural concerns may have a negative impact on corporate performance and promote employee dissatisfaction.
Apple can deal with this issue by changing its corporate culture a bit, however this won’t always eliminate conflict. Without minimizing the advantages of combative techniques, this advice focuses on minimizing their drawbacks in the operations of the technology company.
With developments and changes in the environment of the information technology, cloud services, digital content distribution, and consumer electronics industries, Apple can also incorporate new cultural qualities to keep the company relevant.
Apple company culture has many benefits and some weaknesses too. There is a lot that we could write about it so make sure to let us know what else you’d be interested in reading about Apple.
One thing we know for sure – without the changes to the company culture that Jobs made in the 90’s, Apple would not be where it is right now.
Thank you for reading this article!
Make sure to check out our other articles on famous companies, such as What Makes Red Bull Company Culture Special and Google Company Culture.