Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of believes that the avoidance of mistakes can sometimes be more important than the pursuit of good decisions.

Apple Shines

An exemplary decision can make up for many slip-ups in management strategy on the road to success.

A very good example is that of Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs’s lack of organisation and interest in management in general were such that even he recognised them. Because of this, he brought in a highly reputed Procter & Gamble manager to take care of business while Jobs concentrated his technological and marketing genius on the products.

Unfortunately, this transpired to be mismanagement itself. The imported manager was soon at odds with Jobs and proceeded to engineer the dismissal of Apple’s genuine business genius. That turned out to be even worse management, and Jobs eventually had to be brought back in to rescue a rapidly sinking ship.

His efforts in saving the business were 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 and Jobs reaffirmed his genius with Pixar and computerised cartoon animation (to his own huge financial benefit), and also showed the crucial point that, if you’re doing the right thing, you can get away with mistakes.

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

The strategy error of ignoring the customer appeal of compatibility accounts for the ups and downs of Apple’s finances, which led to the humiliation of Jobs being forced out. To his credit, the Apple reputation for innovation was maintained and the Macintosh has remained a great product.

The company sits well down the league of big business; 159th of the Fortune 500, compared with Microsoft’s 48th place. No doubt Apple is paying the price for its high investment ratio.

But that simply goes with the strategy. Heavy spending on new products and processes is a necessity when it comes to leading the way in innovation. Apple’s strategy of giving customers what they want has to be the best policy.

About the author
Robert Heller is one of the world’s best selling authors on business management.