When the head of Apple made his announcement to step down, the markets reacted and the media commentaries began.
The talk has focused on how pivotal Mr. Jobs has been in the creation of revolutionary products, and the predictions that the Apple innovating machine will grind to a halt. What no one is talking about is why the consumer holds Apple products in such high regard. INNOVATIVE products have a sex appeal that attract the consumer, but that’s not what makes them loyal. Apple’s loyalty comes from the USE of these products.
Here are the three things that in my opinion, have made Apple a threat to its competitors:
1. Innovative product ideas
2. Ease of use
3. Perfection in execution
Perfection in execution is THE thing that I fear will erode without Steven Jobs.
In the current Apple world, it is rare that a product is released with significant flaws that sour the user experience. When it was discovered that the IPhone 4 would not work if the user held it in their left hand, I would imagine Mr. Jobs would find this incredible that his team neglected to test in both hands. In Apple’s world, the phrase “just ship” does not seem to exist the way it does in other companies when developing a product to a deadline. In Apple’s world, they get it right or it doesn’t ship. You might disagree and someone reading this will point out some flaw somewhere, but I think we can all agree that compared to the industry norm, Apple gets high marks in this area.
When I consult with organizations that seek to reduce costs, increase quality or change their culture, this is the one common area that my clients all appear weak in. The time, money and loss of confidence that results are staggering when you look at any company that produces not just external products for its customers, but internal products used to support their customer services.
This applies to virtually every organization, not just consumer oriented electronics companies.
In many organizations, the product development team often hangs the operations folks out to dry when supporting the customer. The product team has no choice since their leaders hang them out to dry by allocating budgets and time that fail to take into account the full scale of not just building or user testing, but other less obvious aspects as well. Apple under Steve Jobs simply does not tolerate the level of mistakes, oversights or lack of perfectionism that Mr. Jobs demanded.
Somehow Jobs has been able to strike the delicate balance between getting it right, and getting it out the door without “hanging people out to dry.”
What I commonly see as I roam the halls of organizations is either a stringent adherence to perfectionism to the point where red tape and controls prevent anything from being released in a timely fashion, or, rapid development and release of what can only be called garbage? In the corporate world, this garbage may include business processes.
Here are my concerns as Apple finds its way:
• Will the internal working of Apple get bogged down trying to emulate the perfectionist ways of Mr. Jobs to the point that it grinds to a halt?
• Will Apple allow too many imperfections to slip by in order to meet their launch schedules, and lose their loyal followers?
• Or, is there an “Apple Way” that will eternally live on and continue to drive Apple forward as the legacy of Mr. Jobs?