Shining Apple


Managers cannot be 100 per cent effective at all times - although there are probably some managers who manage to be 100 per cent ineffective at some times. However just one great decision can negate many slip-ups in strategy on the road to success.

A very special example is that of Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs's poor organisation and low levels of interest in management in general were such that even he recognised them. In response, he brought in a highly reputed Procter & Gamble hero to take care of business while Jobs concentrated his technological and marketing genius on the products.

However, this turned out to be mismanagement in itself. The managerial import was soon at odds with Jobs and proceeded to engineer the dismissal of Apple's genuine business genius.

But that represented even worse management, and Jobs eventually had to be brought back in to rescue a rapidly sinking ship.

His contribution in saving the business was masterful; the basic computer range, in spite of a low market share, has led the way in innovation and customer satisfaction. Apple has also transformed the music industry with the iPod.

Jobs proved his genius all over again with Pixar and computerised cartoon animation (to his own huge financial success), and also showed the crucial point that, if you're doing the right thing, you can get away with making mistakes.

When IBM entered the PC market that Apple had created, the latter's decision to insist on a proprietary policy condemned the smaller firm to a vulnerable existence on the fringes of a market dominated by an IBM operating system owned by Microsoft and available to everyone.

The poor strategy of ignoring the customer appeal of compatibility explains the ups and downs of Apple's finances, which led to the humiliation of Jobs being forced out. To his credit, the Apple reputation and innovation remained high – the Macintosh has remained a great product.

The company lies well down the big business league; 159th of the Fortune 500, compared with Microsoft's 48th place. Apple is doubtless paying the price for its high investment ratio.

However, that goes with the strategy. Heavy spending on new products and processes is necessary to lead the way in innovation. Apple's strategy of giving customers what they want is the best policy.

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About The Author

Robert Heller
Robert Heller

Robert Heller, who died aged 80 in August 2012, was Britain's most renowned and best-selling author on business management. Author of more than 50 books, he was the founding editor of Management Today and the Global Future Forum. About his latest title, The Fusion Manager, Sir John Harvey-Jones wrote: "The future lies with the thinking manager, and the thinking manager must read this book".

Older Comments

very interesting

Sam Dalla Bonna