Apple Inc. is an iconic United States technological company based in Cupertino, California. Apple is engaged in the development of World changing consumer electronic products such a mobile phones, music media devices, tablets, and personal computers. The company also sells and creates operating system software, peripherals and delivery of third-party digital content (iTunes) to consumers. Apple sells its products and services via it 250 U.S. and 140 international retail stores worldwide (Europe, Japan and Asia-Pacific), online stores and third-party wholesalers, retailers and resellers. As of September 29, 2012 Apple has 72,800 full-time employees and 3,300 temporary employees and contractors. Apple is one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world with increased net sales from $65 billion in 2010, $108 billion in 2011 and $156 billion in 2012. (Apple 10K) Two young entrepreneurs; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the company in 1997.
They relied on each other different strengths to propel the business forward. Wozniak was the technical know person and Jobs was the visionary who knew how to conceptualize the product. One of their early computer products was called Apple II. The next big product that brought Apple to the forefront of the computer industry was the introduction of the first Macintosh computer reveled to the world in 1984. Apple spent over 30 million dollars on the advertising of the product, which also launched the famous and iconic television ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Over the years the company has survived management conflicts were Steve Jobs left the company for many years, but was brought back 1997 to help revive Apple from dismal stock prices and competitors. In short, under Steve Jobs leadership the company shifted its focus towards making the best innovative and uniquely designed products Worldwide for consumers.
Organizational structure that keeps Apple “alive” is uniquely different than other multinational companies, but they still follow distinct rules of a well-function organization. To help understand Apple’s structure, we first need to look what is the company’s purpose. Apple wants to be number one at creating some of the best and innovative products for consumers that brings life changing user experience to customers. Formalization – Apple is derived from the create quadrant of the CVF were they pay close attention innovation and envision the future, but at the same they also have a very formal structure that is running in full start-up mode at all times and they can still take part in spontaneous actions without the politics and red tape of normal large companies Centralization – One of the key drives of Apple’s corporation is that they are a highly collaborative company that works really well together in the decision making process, but I would also say they are combination of a highly centralized and decentralized type of business.
Hierarchy – Consisted of Steve Jobs being the visionary and visible leader of the company till his recent death. The person now steering the ship is Tim Cook, who is a veteran Apple employee and has been appointed several times as stand-in CEO in the past. Apple has what would be considered a tall organizational structure, but still unique because of how they foster collaboration. Complexity – Like any large multinational company Apple has an array of 10 Top Executives, Board of Directors and a CEO Tim Cook (Apple bios). Integration – Apple is a highly integrated organization, but once again due to how collaborative the company is, different organizational units and sub-units work very well together to meet the core objectives and goals of the company.
Apple is probably one of the best in the tech industry, even though Steve Jobs has passed away. “Entrepreneurial leaders leave a lasting imprint on the structures on the organizations they found,” which is the case with Apple being led by Tim Cook now. The management styles are a little bit different between the two men, but the revenue numbers speak for themself in this situation. Apple’s structure allows the current CEO to carry on with business as it did in the past with the exception of trying figure out what would Steve Jobs do in this scenario of keeping Apple a vibrant company. Steve Jobs watched companies like Walt Disney be non-productive after their CEO passed away and did not want that for Apple, so he explained to Tim Cook “don’t ever try to figure out what would I have done in a certain situation, just do what is right for the company” (MSNBC). I think this type of leader-follower relationship transcends throughout the Apple organization very well.
Stakeholder relationships on the surface seem to be in very good standings. Apple is a leader in so many ways with making superior products; they are number one, who doesn’t want to be a part of the Apple machine? For example, the recently opened Apple store in Grand Central Station, all forms of stakeholders are benefiting from that deal; consumers, employees, Grand Central, New York City etc. Multiply that by various locations around the world and we have a majority of happy stakeholders ready to follow with open arms all because of the structure of how Apple operates its company. Productivity and performance due the company’s organizational structure allows Apple to be number one.
For example, when netbooks were all the rage and Apple was introducing the first iPad and started coining the phrase we are now entering into “post-pc era,” some people or industries did not take that statement serious, but look at the numbers now. 95% of all web traffic from tablets are from iPads and it is only increasing every year (AllthingsD). The benefit and cost of the current structure is very evident all over the world, especially when Apple has a new product launch. It’s like a cult following (in a good way). For example, people start lining up all over the world; to get their hands on whatever product is being released; online sales via Apples website will start to have a 3 to 4 weeks backorder on products because they are in such high demand. Basically the current structure allows Apple to achieve high net sales on all products being sold and keeps their position as number one consumer product seller in the world.
At Apple, the work culture was driven by a passion for new products with no end to challenges and opportunities. Apple became the pioneer of the “Work Hard Play Hard” ethic. The corporate culture at Apple was exemplified by its intense work ethics. Al though it’s work environment was relaxed and casual, there was a very strong commitment to company deadlines. Apple was based on an idea that self-motivated individuals will work harder if they do not have a boss micromanaging every action. This unique structure of Apple had allowed it to grow and react more quickly to changes than its competitors like IBM and Microsoft. The reason Apple took action to a quick responsiveness, is that it was much easier to get a project started if there
are only a few people to obtain approval from. One view of Apple’s leader follower relationship can be explained by how quickly Apple initially grew. Due to the ability to have employees make decisions at the lowest possible level.
Corporate headquarters made policy and oversaw all activities, but the local employees made the day-to-day decisions in countries all over the world. This type of top-down philosophy allowed for quick responsiveness and resolutions to situations without involving the corporate headquarters, thus avoiding corporate red tape. Analysts have been known to summarize the work culture at Apple as fun, yet demanding. “Culture helps focus individual effort directly on achieving the organization’s objectives.” (Greenwald, P207) The Apple experience as a stakeholder has always been about the user experience not just the technology, even though the majority of the market didn’t care about that Apple wanted to be different. Apple is a company that is in the business of making markets vs. addressing markets.
The Apple ego is a belief that it is the best company in the world and it should carry itself that way, all its lenders, employees, software designers and customers understand its ego and for those who don’t like it found out it has become a call to arms for all of the company’s stakeholders. Another way to view Apple is that it doesn’t ask people what they need but gives them products they decide they want. Think about a simple question, does anyone need an iPhone or iPad? Not really, but a lot of people seem to want them. Apple’s culture is based on some basic facts that really drive its productivity performance. It is a vertical integration company where most of technology is developed in house for its key products and it will have key advantages over other less vertically integrated companies and Apple makes “cool” products. Attention to design and detail, fit and finish really distinguishes Apple’s products from competitors.
The iPod was not the first digital music player and the iPhone was not the first smart phone and the iPad is not the first portable computing device. But having differentiated business models where Apple develops and innovates products with key features like the iPod+iTunes and iPhone+App Store provides a strong competitive advantage, where this process makes it difficult for competitors to match what Apple is producing in a timely fashion. Apples culture produces and offers very clear and simple set of products.
It’s easy to understand the differences between their products, product families and the various configurations where many other companies complicate things unnecessarily. Apple’s employees had to run their own show and work in a challenging and creative environment. Apple adopted a style that was not too formal or hierarchical and a more results-driven approach, which worked best for them. Apple fostered a culture of secrecy. The demand for absolute secrecy and insistence on control were infused into the company culture right from the beginning. “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”(Steve Jobs, 2010)
The understanding of the human behavior at the Apple organization has truly shaped its design, structure, function and culture by the following points. * Apple employees understand that a key internal emphasis at the company is that it cares about the design of its products more than any other firm in the market, unlike Microsoft who has done a poor job of creating aesthetically pleasing products. Apple’s focus on design shows it understands what consumers want and how to meet those needs and desires, and it sets out to beat any and all expectations. The pressure falls onto an employee who doesn’t help the company meet those needs they may end up with another company sooner than later. * Apple is known to do everything differently; therefore employees need to forget what they ever knew about the technology world. Whether it’s the design of products, system for developing ideas for new products or the way it handles data everything is different at Apple.
Employees who function similar to a past employer is a mistake that could cause trouble within the rank and file. * Apple takes it flaws to heart and listens when it hears people criticize its products. They respond with firm tone and harsh statements in ways that other companies in the industry would not dare to replicate. Apple doesn’t like being told that it’s wrong. * Apple will never admit defeat no matter how badly its products are getting beaten. The company seems to find ways of turning itself around and out of the hole with an right strategies business action that saves the day. Nowhere is that more evident than in the computing market.
With the results that Apple is setting record profits. * Apple understands attention to detail is key strategy that will pay off in the long run. Apple goes that extra mile which has become a staple of the company’s vision and it’s something that it expects from its employees. * Apple’s focus on technology domination worldwide is everything that the late Steve Jobs aspired to be. It was his ultimate goal to not only compete with his competitors in the all the markets his company competes in but rather destroy them. He wanted to make it clear to the world that his company was the best and would beat them all. At apple he established a culture that would help him achieve his legacy.
Communication and decision making styles
We know that the form of communication within an organization is directly reflective of its structure. Information is transmitted through diverse methods such as speech, writing, symbols, and body language. (Greenwald, Organizations; Management without controls, 2008) At Apple, communication is what they sell and what they welcome. “Whether or not you as an Apple employee choose to create or participate in a blog, wiki, online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is your own choice. In general, what you do on your own time is your business. However, activities that affect your job performance, the performance of other Apple employees, or Apple’s business interests are still covered by company policies and guidelines. This applies whether you engage in these activities in or outside of work, and whether or not you identify yourself as an Apple employee.” (Heath, Alex, 2012)
It is clear that Apple knows that it is to protect itself from the very creative minds it cultivates. This policy leaves no room for unnecessary overlap. Business is business and that is what matters.
“Apple runs an extremely tight ship, with tiny product groups; just two engineers were given the task of writing the code to convert the Safari browser to run on the iPad, a task that on its face seems like a huge undertaking that other companies such as Microsoft or Google might have devoted dozens of people to.” (The Dictatorship, 12) Apple, as a formal organization has had a long history of capturing informal leaders. The previous excerpt is from an article, which also describes the gathering of 100 exclusive employees. They were not all at same pay grade and or security clearances but they could be trusted to keep dates and products a secret as well as to give their honest opinions.
“Every executive action, product or project has a “DRI” – directly responsible individual – who carries the can (or laurels) for its outcome.” (Heath, Alex, 2012) “The creative process at Apple is one of constantly preparing someone – be it one’s boss, boss’s boss, or oneself – for a presentation to Jobs,” writes Adam Lashinsky, who calls him “a corporate dictator who makes every critical decision – and oddles of seemingly noncritical calls too”. (Heath, Alex, 2012) While Apple does subscribe to what may be considered a ‘normal’ type of policy and set of norms, we often learn of the overlapping, dictator-ran, bully-driven ship that shines through in their product releases and market bravado.
Our observations of Apple employees are limited to Apple Store® employees. Although we have included various reports and accounts of encounters between Steve Jobs and other executives, we find it necessary to compare the culture levels on the outer bands of this grand organization. Passing by the Apple Store in any mall, it is apparent how different the selling atmosphere is. The products are all sprawled out for customers to play with and engage in. There is nearly a 1:1 staff/customer ratio. They have a “genius bar” where any consumer holding a MAC product can bring their device to for assistance. The environment is alive and vibrant. These geniuses are the face of the company to the everyday employee and they are raised and bread by Apple. They are taught communication styles, they are integrated into the norms and values of the Apple brand and they execute a marketing and sales strategy that benefits the customers and the company.
This is done through verbal communication, non-verbal communication and symbolic communication. The entire store is a symbol of Apple. The training manual for the Apple Genius explicitly trains the employees on nonverbal queues and communications to control each interaction (Biddle, 2012). Apple Inc. executives could teach a PhD level course in human behavior and how to influence. It. Just as with any other product or organization, saturation levels are pushed if we don’t pay special attention to how we grow our business. In the early stages, Apple was more of a novelty and so could afford to hire ‘like’ minds to mind their storefronts.
Having to expand its numbers in an effort to combat other retailers for sales, Apple has had to let in a second tier of mildly interested individuals who would be just as happy working for Geek squad® at BestBuy® or any other tech driven retail outlet. The promise of “first dib’s” and other benefits are now comparable to family discounts received throughout the malls. This is not only acceptable but it is a welcomed change in personnel type for Apple®. The dictatorship can freely set plans for stores without worrying about everyone trying to become the next ‘Steve Jobs’.
Part 2 – Team Analysis
The team assignment was posted to the module 3 team assignment, but did not clearly state who the teams were comprised of. In an effort to be proactive and to get started on creating a team, Jim reached out to the entire class to try and obtain volunteers to work as a team to complete the assignment. Team member volunteers emailed Jim expressing their interest. Thirty minutes after his initial email, our team was formed. Initially the team consisted of Jim Fiorino, Amber Winters, Jason Shanks, Khari Clarendon, Kevin Connolly, and Michael Keys.
Shortly after we formed this team, Dr. Kymn clarified team assignments and sent out communication to the class helping to bring clarity to the assignment. Dr. Kymn honored our volunteer formed team, minus Kevin who had previously left our class. The team formed is a formal organization, working and communicating with each other according to standardized patterns recognizable by everyone (Greenwald, 2008) as students under the larger group we all belong to, the Empire State MBA program.
The team selection process reflected our coursework in our Human Systems and Behavior class, as well as earlier class work specifically Competing Values Framework (CVF). Our team has charged itself with finding the perfect balance to the 4 quadrants of the CVF, COLLABORATE, CREATE, COMPETE and CONTROL. The entire team is a group of independent and busy individuals who are all focused on completing the assignment on time, and making sure that we all contribute equally to the assignment given. Team members agreed to be flexible and focused in this process with the ultimate goal in site, a successful organizational analysis.
Organization Selection Process:
A list of companies was suggested via course email by Michael Keys and was sent to the team for consideration. The list included The Apple Store, Home Depot, Target, Macy’s, and Gap stores. Through email discussions, it was decided by consensus that the group would analyze Apple stores. Mike in the role of team liaison, texted Dr. Kymn with our result, and our selection was approved. Self managing teams are defined as groups of workers assigned the responsibility for making decisions over the manner in which work will be carried out, setting schedules, assigning individuals to perform specific functions, and evaluating members’ performance (Greenwald, Organizations. Management Without Control, 2008). This is a true example of our team, we all need to manage our own time and make decisions that are going to support the timelines discussed on our conference call and complete the specific assignments (specific functions) described earlier.
Team Roles and Tasks
Roles naturally defined themselves as our team members learned more about each other. Jim’s initial outreach to the entire class identified him as our team’s natural LEADER and PROJECT MANAGER. He was charged with keeping the team on task, on time and on topic. He also promoted positive and timely communication, key to the success of any organization. Our group by nature, is limited to strictly verbal/written communication in our virtual learning environment. This communication mode is characterized by use of words and numbers. Verbal communication has clear advantages over other modes for the exchange of deliberate messages. Transmission of data is always a verbal process (Greenwald, 2008).
Amber took on the role of EDITOR and PROOFREADER. A major challenge of the approach our team took to writing this paper was creating it in five voices. The role of editor is important to put the paper in one voice. She also is responsible for reviewing the paper of grammar and typos. The team members shared a few common roles. We all played the role of TEAM MEMBER, RESEARCHER and WRITER. By assigning sections to each team member, we were individually responsible for researching our portion. Following the compilation of our research, we were each independently responsible for writing our 2 page section.
After agreeing on the organization to analyze, Jim reached out to the team and we agreed to have a conference call on Sunday December 9th to discuss next steps and to assign the work. Prior to the call Mike had sent out an email stating that he had already completed sections A & B of part 2, which was a great way to get everyone motivated on getting this assignment completed early.
During the conference call, the work was split up among the team. Mike already completed A & B, Jason was assigned C & D, Khari was assigned E & F, and Amber was assigned G. Jim volunteered to take all of part two, the team analysis. During this meeting it was agreed that all team members would try and write two pages on their sections to meet the minimum assignment target of ten pages if the content. We agreed that each of our sections were to be completed by Wednesday night and emailed to Jim all of our work can be consolidate and sent over to Amber to allow her time to complete her part of the assignment. During this conference call we all agreed that we will regroup on Wednesday December 12th, to make sure that we are all complete with our sections and to seek assistance if needed.
Our successful organization, role structure and communication allowed our team to be productive and successful. There were no disagreements or conflict and we all agreed that we want to complete the assignment early, but be successful in doing so. The entire team worked collaboratively with good discussions through positive verbal communication. .
All of us shared in ideas and agreed on a time commitment and schedule. People who are collaborative share the same objectives, mutual and equal contributions, and a sense of collectivity among the group, producing a work environment that is free of conflict and tension (Cameron, Quinn, Degraff, & Thakor, 2006). Our two page sections were all emailed to our TEAM LEADER on time. He combined them and sent them to Amber for review and editing and for the summary to be completed. All team members met their obligations as agreed.
Our team can be defined as a high performance team. A high-performance team can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, which consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation that produce superior results. (Hanlan, 2004). The high-performance team has individuals who are highly skilled and are able to interchange their roles and are flexible. Our team operated in this exact manner and had positive outcomes. By definition, this is a good description of our team. Teams that are successful translate their common purpose into specific, measurable, and realistic performance goals. Specific goals facilitate clear communication and help teams maintain their focus on obtaining results (Robbins & Judge, 2009).
Our time lines that we discussed on the conference call set clear goals and challenged the group to make sure that we left enough time for Amber to review the work and complete her section. Difficult goals have been found to raise the performance of team members especially to avoid letting down another member of the team (Robbins & Judge, 2009). Forming teams is almost always more productive than having people work by themselves (Cameron, Quinn, Degraff, & Thakor, 2006). This is very true when you have a team like ours that was very collaborative throughout the entire process. Because we were able to work independently, we are able to bring our own ideas to our assigned sections. Many new ideas come from individuals being given the time and resources and allowed to work apart from the normal activities of the organization (Cameron, Quinn, Degraff, & Thakor, 2006)
As a team, we have agreed that our work qualifies for a minimum of an A-. We completed the project as assigned. It is our belief we met the challenge of this project by applying the tools of this class successfully. Through organization, structure, communication, role defining and proactivity, we were able to avoid conflict and complete this project on time and in good quality. Our established set of norms that exist within the graduate structure of this class set a good base for the team members to start from. Our team led the class in team creation before the professor was able to clarify the approach. We consider ourselves leaders. We are sure the paper isn’t perfect, no product from any working team is. But what it IS, is a successful compilation of teamwork.
Apple Inc. is a perfect company to analyze through the human behavior lens because their founders understood and structured their company with human behavior in mind. They considered their people and the behaviors that were desired, but they also pay close attention to the consumers and their behaviors. Jobs maintained a company by building a structure, culture, set of norms and values that fostered creativity. He was a genius of people and technology. Jobs did this at apple under 7 rules of success (his norms/values). Rule one is passion, because most people fail because they don’t love what they do. Rule number two is build a team of great people, success hinges on the ability to identify talent and the know how of building successful teams. Rule number three is vision. One must never lose sight of the big picture. Rule number four is creativity; you have to think outside of the box in business and in practice. Rule number five is to learn to say no more often.
It’s all about the power of focus. Rule number six is help customers reach their dreams. If you don’t solve a problem, if you don’t accomplish a dream, you don’t have a business. Finally, work on your marketing message (communication externally). Trumpet your success and deliver it in a way people want to hear about it. Don’t be the norm or fill the status quo. (Gallo, 14 O) Steve Jobs says “Apple is an incredible collaborative company.” Did you know that? Do you by chance know how many committees they have at Apple? ZERO! Teamwork is key to Apple. Teamwork, in terms of trusting that people that will deliver what they committed to without watching them all the time. Jobs set up a training environment that taught his people about people and how to interact with them and get them to achieve the desired result (sales).
There is a cult like following not only because of the quality of product, but because of the great care the leaders at Apple took to create and maintain their company in a way that considers (and possibly manipulates) human behavior. Recommendations for Apple Inc. are a bit more complex. With Jobs passing, Tim Cook is just starting to get his feet wet in running and driving the company. Consumers and employees have a high expectation for apple. In terms of structure and communication, roles and culture, it seems Apple is a leader.
It will continue to be important for Apple to define that fine line between taking advantage of their knowledge of human behavior and manipulating it for strictly gain. Their technology has also been a leader in the industry. However they have many competitors who are catching up and arguably, surpassing them. The question will be how so they stay ahead and keep their creative people happy. It may require a new out of the box thinking. With new leadership in Cook, it is likely that there will be changes. He will have to establish himself with his people and his consumers who so loved his predecessor.
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