Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

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UPDATED: 08/10/11 – This post is dedicated to one of my heroes and role models, Steve Jobs, 1955-2011, Thanks for the inspiration. May God bless you.

Welcome to my most successful blogpost. This post attracts so many people that the search, ‘apple management style’ will return this article as the number one post. That’s without any adwords. Please read and leave comments.

This article is an article in a series of articles where I will analyse current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders. I have broken down Steve Job’s style into two distinct pieces. The management style and the presentation style.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

In an interview with Fortune, Steve Job’s (SJ) opened up about his management Style (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. SWOT analysis: As soon as you join/start a company as a CIO, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.

2. Spotting opportunities: SJ – “We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Improve productivity: - SJ – “We figure out what we want. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.”

As a CIO, we need to ask ourselves, what can we do that will improve our customers or our own productivity? That could entail listening to your customers, horizon scanning or simply taking action on something that you feel would help you, your team/and/or customers.

4. Business/IT Strategy: SJ – “We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants.”

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

5. Competitive advantage: SJ – “It is the intimate interaction between the operating system and the hardware that allows us to do that. That allows us to innovate at a much faster rate than if we had to wait for Microsoft, like Dell and HP and everybody else does.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage? I covered this a few weeks ago, in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?. Sometimes, it makes sense not to embrace open platforms, as Apple has created a significant competitive advantage, by keeping it’s hardware/software systems closed. CIOs need to make such decisions cautiously.

6. Succession planning and his reputation: SJ – “My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do. My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”

CIOs need to be facilitators and to bring people together working towards a common goal. It is also important to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

7. Focus: SJ – “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

A CIO needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

8. Talent acquisition:They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

9. Know your business and innovate: SJ – “I put out an agenda — 80% is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.”

The CIO and the entire IT department need to know how the business operates, preferably, as intricately as possible. It is that complete overview that will allow innovative opportunities to present themselves.

10. Handling barriers and roadblocks: SJ – “And we pushed the reset button. We went through all of the zillions of models we’d made and ideas we’d had. And we ended up creating what you see here as the iPhone, which is dramatically better.”

CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. There is no shame in that as the project has to deliver the project’s core objective.

11. Customer conversion: SJ – “But if we put our store in a mall or on a street that they’re walking by, and we reduce that risk from a 20-minute drive to 20 footsteps, then they’re more likely to go in because there’s really no risk.”

CIOs need to help the businesses by utilising IT to create opportunities in attracting additional customers. They need to ask themselves, “How can we assist in taking the business to the consumer”?

12. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: SJ- “What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.”

I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader. This means that they need to stand by that conviction and avoid losing people in economic downturns.

13. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure: SJ -. “Will this resonate and be something that you just can’t live without and love? We’ll see. I think it’s got a shot.”

Apple has proved that failure can lead to success and continues to innovate by investing in many technologies. Some will inevitably fail while others such as the iPod and iPhone will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

14. Earn respect: Steve Jobs can be a hard boss to work with but Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. CIOs need to command respect from their employees and that is something that has to be earned!

I want to conclude this part by finishing off with a quote that shows us that even with his god like innovative powers, Steve Jobs remains human. “Steve proves that it’s OK to be an asshole,” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist. “I can’t relate to the way he does things, but it’s not his problem. It’s mine. He just has a different OS.”

As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm said. “He’s at the absolute epicentre digitisation of life. He’s totally in the zone.”

The Presentation Style

For the second part, I am reproducing an article written by Carmine Gallo in BusinessWeek for his new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. For this book he watched hours of Jobs’ keynotes. Here he identifies the five elements of every presentation by the Apple CEO. CIOs can improve their presentations by using these five elements.

1. A headline. Steve Jobs positions every product with a headline that fits well within a 140-character Twitter post. For example, Jobs described the MacBook Air as “the world’s thinnest notebook.” That phrase appeared on his presentation slides, the Apple Web site, and Apple’s press releases at the same time. What is the one thing you want people to know about your product? This headline must be consistent in all of your marketing and presentation material.

2. A villain. In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. In 1984, the villain, according to Apple, was IBM (IBM). Before Jobs introduced the famous 1984 television ad to the Apple sales team for the first time, he told a story of how IBM was bent on dominating the computer industry. “IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple.” Today, the “villain” in Apple’s narrative is played by Microsoft (MSFT). One can argue that the popular “I’m a Mac” television ads are hero/villain vignettes. This idea of conquering a shared enemy is a powerful motivator and turns customers into evangelists.

3. A simple slide. Apple products are easy to use because of the elimination of clutter. The same approach applies to the slides in a Steve Jobs presentation. They are strikingly simple, visual, and yes, devoid of bullet points. Pictures are dominant. When Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, no words could replace a photo of a hand pulling the notebook computer out of an interoffice manila envelope. Think about it this way—the average PowerPoint slide has 40 words. In some presentations, Steve Jobs has a total of seven words in 10 slides. And why are you cluttering up your slides with too many words?

4. A demo. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain gets bored easily. Steve Jobs doesn’t give you time to lose interest. Ten minutes into a presentation he’s often demonstrating a new product or feature and having fun doing it. When he introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, Jobs demonstrated how Google Maps (GOOG) worked on the device. He pulled up a list of Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the local area and said, “Let’s call one.” When someone answered, Jobs said: “I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding.”

5. A holy smokes moment. Every Steve Jobs presentation has one moment that neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” The emotionally charged event is the equivalent of a mental post-it note that tells the brain, Remember this! For example, at Macworld 2007, Jobs could have opened the presentation by telling the audience that Apple was unveiling a new mobile phone that also played music, games, and video. Instead he built up the drama. “Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device…an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator…an iPod, a phone, are you getting it? These are not three devices. This is one device!” The audience erupted in cheers because it was so unexpected, and very entertaining. By the way, the holy smokes moment on Sept. 9 had nothing to do with a product. It was Steve Jobs himself appearing onstage for the first time after undergoing a liver transplant.

One more thing…sell dreams. Charismatic speakers like Steve Jobs are driven by a nearly messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, “In our own small way we’re going to make the world a better place.” Where most people saw the iPod as a music player, Jobs recognized its potential as a tool to enrich people’s lives. Cultivate a sense of mission. Passion, emotion, and enthusiasm are grossly underestimated ingredients in professional business communications, and yet, passion and emotion will motivate others. Steve Jobs once said that his goal was not to die the richest man in the cemetery. It was to go to bed at night thinking that he and his team had done something wonderful. Do something wonderful. Make your brand stand for something meaningful.

For more of Job’s techniques, flip through this slide show. Then catch a video interview with Carmine Gallo about how he researched his book.

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About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

17 Responses to Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

  1. Pingback: Steve Jobs (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  2. Tony Zelinko says:

    It was just a matter of time before original content and ability catches up with reality. What I mean by this is Apple by far had the best PC design, yet other manufacturers had the lions share of the market for PC’s. Jobs had the PC architcture right the first time but got out manauvered by Microsoft and software implimentation pacts. Like the Energizer Bunny he keeps on going and going. Now finally he gets the notoriety and market share he deserves with his latest I-Phone and related devices, that showcases his ablity as a visionary and inventor.
    Keep pushing the design envelope Steve we all can learn from it.

    Regards,
    Tony
    http://www.bontemedical.com/blog

  3. mubbisherahmed says:

    Shanif Jivraj, ITIL Experienced Windows System Administrator posted the following on a social media site:

    This is similar to the ITIL Framework!

    I replied:

    Shanif, you are correct in many ways. There maybe common elements but ITIL is a set of, “Best Practice”. Leaders such as Steve Jobs have innovative minds and mostly follow their, ‘gut’ instinct. Adhering to existing processes or conforming to what we may well believe (I am ITIL certified as well) should be done, is not how these newer organisations function.

    Most new information age businesses, such as, Facebook, LI, Apple, Microsoft (MS) etc flourish when there is no set way of doing things. MS, may well be following set processes now but in many cases that stifles innovation. MS is not as innovative as it once was. The analogy, if any, is look at how many new products MS and Google have released in the past year (See my post – Search wars – Past, Present and future – Bing, Google or new entrant? – http://wp.me/pw27T-4W

    Process based approaches such as ITIL and Prince 2 will benefit these companies once they have passed employee levels where control becomes crucial.

    The good within ITIL is that it has a CMDB (Configuration management database) so a central repository forms the basis of the ITIL modules that the organisation needs to introduce. Prince2 also leaves the elements to introduce to the organisation itself.

    In summary, it’s the old adage of horses for courses. To be or not to be and let’s not forget organisation cultures!

  4. Shanif Jivraj says:

    I agree but can you get me a job with my ITIL?

    • mubbisherahmed says:

      ITIL should certainly enhance your prospects and you are looking for a job the right way, via your professional network. I will certainly keep a lookout for you, my friend.

  5. Pingback: What is the "aggressive" style in which Steve Jobs holds his meetings? - Quora

  6. Pingback: Leadership vs. Management, or what Steve Jobs, Marines, and Navy SEALs have in common | the dot-communist

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    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Hi Javid,

      I am glad that you enjoyed reading my blogg and that you have witnessed an improvement in my writing skills. As they say, practice makes perfect!

      Mubbisher Ahmed

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    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Hi Alysa,

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    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Many thanks for your supportive comment and for appreciating my efforts. It is always great to get such positive feedback and encourages me to blog more….

      Kind Regards,

      Mubbisher Ahmed

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