Teams at Apple

Apple has always been a team oriented company that sells innovated products. Their success has led them to be one of the most innovative technology companies in the world. Much of their success has to do with the way Apple runs their organization. Many companies have the same talent and technology as Apple does, but they fail to manage their teams effectively to create an innovative product. Apple has learned that they must give their employees much freedom to focus on their projects. One method has been through small teams that focus on creating the next big hit. In the early days of the company Apple focused on collaboration throughout the company. A small team of 28 engineers was able to develop the first Mac. There was extensive interaction between the hardware and software employees which allowed them to create an integrated experience for the Mac. Most other firms were running separate divisions where hardware was built by one company and software by another. Since then Apple has developed their management of teams to be effective in creating innovative products. A unique style of corporate leadership and trust in their employees are the main strategies that allow Apple to be a highly innovative firm.
Employees at Apple have a different role than most do at companies as they are given much freedom over their work. Steve Job’s always wanted his employees to feel focused on their work and not worry about being wrong. He did this by holding informal meetings where they had many heated discussions about the style of a product. These discussions were not limited to only the engineers of the company, but usually involved a range of employees. Marketing staff, finance specialist, and even secretaries joined these discussions. Steve Jobs was able to control these discussions and find out the best idea. Steve Wozniak Apple’s cofounder explains how this benefited Apple: “Steve did an excellent job of melding the marketing, operations and technology. He understood which technology was good and what people would like. It was a weird situation. He couldn’t design a computer — he was never a designer or a programmer — but he could understand it well enough to understand what was good and what was bad” (Steve Wozniak). This helped the company to follow through with the best ideas. The different backgrounds of the employees allowed for a better perspective on how to create a product. These employees had a strong organizational citizenship behavior that allows for better work in the company environment. Employees were not kept to job-specific tasks which led to higher job satisfaction. Once an employee works at Apple they usually stay there for most of their career. Satisfaction of employees is crucial to Apple as they need to keep top talent at the company. Many companies try to sway Apple employees with promises of perks and bonuses, but most are not interested. The employees are already the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are trying to achieve self-actualization. One belief of many employees is that they are changing the world through their work. Jobs further ingrained this belief into the company and focused on products that the world needed. Wozniak explains Jobs early beliefs: “He really wants to move the world forward and not be just another company making the same old thing to earn a buck. That was exactly what he wanted the day I met him when we were in high school. He admired these top people in the world — the Newtons and the Shakespeares. He thought that there were very few people who had really changed life forever for all of us. He obviously wanted to be one of them” (Steve Wozniak). Harnessing these employees talent is important for Apple as the leaders understand they have much talent in the company. The leaders of Apple have focused on strong teamwork to further motivate employees to innovate.
One theme at Apple is that the leaders should create strong teamwork at the top of the company which filters down throughout the company. Jobs had strong influence over the rest of the company and his motivation filtered throughout the company. His leadership became especially effective by creating teamwork. Heidi Roizen one of Steve’s long-time business partners describes how his leadership helped Apple: “His DNA was built into this company. And when he came back, everything fell into place — a return to excellence in design, to listening to the consumer, to developing cool products” (Heidi Roizen). Steve Jobs made it a priority to work personally with people on projects to ensure that employees would have the necessary resources to complete the job. This helped fast track product ideas into development. However, Jobs at times would slow down the development due to a minor detail that he wanted perfected. His type-A personality attributed to his controlling behavior of a project. The demanding demeanor of Jobs helped employees focus more on the project and collaborate with others. John Sculley an employee at Apple describes his personality: “He possessed an innate sense of knowing exactly how to extract the best from people” (John Sculley). Most employees were encouraged by Jobs as they were able to achieve more in their work. At Apple not all of the projects are monitored by top management. Most times employees are giving freedom and trusted to do work on the project in the way they wish.
Trust is extremely important to Apple because it lets employees create products that they want to use. Trust at Apple is more identification-based which follows the theme that employees have the same vision. Management knows the employees want to change the world with their products and trusts their beliefs. More companies need to trust their employees if they expect loyalty from them. Companies like Microsoft are usually too structured to allow for any freedom and trust of their employees. Microsoft prefers to tell their employees what to do rather than let them decide on the projects that are best for the company. Apple has shown that when employees create trust in the Apple brand it leads to innovative products. The trust also does not stop at the employee level, but expands to the entire brand. Consumers trust Apple products to be reliable and worthy technology to purchase. Apple store employees put emphasis on that fact that their products are reliable and trustworthy. Every store employee is confident when selling the product that it is the best available technology in the market. As seen there is trust relationship throughout the company that starts with the leaders. It then goes to the employees and finally to the end consumers. Each part of the way has created a trusting community that builds up the Apple brand. This amount of trust has led Apple to succeed in a highly competitive technology environment. This trust then leads to a flat organization where employees feel confident interacting with people from different levels.
The level of hierarchy in Apple is flat with each employee considered similar to the next. It is very easy to find someone from a different department or level and receive help from them on a project. Even Jobs would directly call employees that were far below his status to see what needed to be done for a project: “He knows a large number of engineers and designers and why they are at his company. If he needs something and knows who’s likely to get it done, he will pick up his phone and ask it directly to her. In this regard he has no respect for the hierarchy.” (Steve Wozniak). This type of leadership helped employees focus on their project and know that even the CEO was interested in creating a successful product. Many times a CEO is not involved with actual development of a product which can be troubling for the employees of a company. Jobs knew that he had to be involved with even the small engineering teams of the company. He trusted his employees and thought many were on the same level as him. He employed the best talent because that way he felt Apple could work together in a collaborative environment. Jobs explained why tried to hire the best talent: “And I found that there were these incredibly great people at doing certain things, and you couldn’t replace one of these people with 50 average people. They could just do stuff that no number of average people could do.” He knew that all his employees were capable of doing great work which made him trust them more than he would with average employees. The flat hierarchy at Apple has created a collaborative environment where trust is high.
Apple has a truly unique style of leadership and team management that makes it one of the most successful companies in the world. While most other corporations are in completely different sectors it is still important to take away some key aspects of Apple’s organization. Trusting employees is a beneficial way to increase satisfaction and productivity throughout a company. However, trusting ones employees must be accompanied by involved leadership in the company. The leader of a company should be confident in their employees and help out when needed. If more companies follow these steps it will lead to innovative products that bring change to the world. People should stop focusing on just the money aspect of a product and figuring out what makes it unique in the marketplace. Most companies have the talent necessary to reach this goal, but their approach has limited their ability to succeed. Apple will remain the leader of innovative products even without Jobs at the head of the company. There is definitely more to come as the organization still remains the same. Jobs made Apple a great company with his leadership and his beliefs should not be forgotten.