The future of Apple

There’s been a lot of media speculation about the future of Apple following the death of Steve Jobs.

I would like to share an analysis of the impact this will have,based on the of the Adizes Methodology.*

In 1985, when Jobs was let go and his co-founder, Steve Wozniak, left the company even before him, what happened was a predictable, if avoidable, syndrome for Apple in its stage of development.  Entrepreneurial flair was kicked out and replaced by a focus on professional management and administration. John Sculley, had an administrative style of leadership in what was then a young industry – a prescription for a failure.

Fortunately, entrepreneurial leadership was eventually brought back when Jobs was rehired and the company regained its position as an innovation leader.

Now that Tim Cook, Apple’s COO, is taking his place as the leader – what will happen?

Not much, for a couple of years. Surely there are lots of Jobs-initiated projects in the pipeline that are still working their way to fruition?

But what about two years from now?

High-tech companies are subject to a very high rate of change. It is easy for a company that loses its entrepreneurial focus to be overtaken and surpassed by more innovative and aggressive companies.

Why do I say Apple is losing its entrepreneurial focus, which has been the source of its phenomenal success?

Because it seems that this role at Apple was personified in Steve Jobs.  Of course, he was not alone in providing entrepreneurial, innovative, leadership to the company. But according to reports in the media, he was a very dominating force. He personally would cancel an already finished new product if he did not like it. He would abort a project if it did not have the ingredients he approved of.

As an entrepreneurial leader, not every decision can be articulated and even explained. It is “DNA”, the intuition that causes the decision maker to go one-way or another.  And apparently this intuition was not a result of a team process (the way for instance the Japanese innovate).

And who has taken his place? The former head of Operations, who is undoubtedly very good at what he does or he would nothave been promoted. But what is he good at? Not entrepreneurial leadership, because that would have created conflict with Jobs. He was most likely good as Jobs’ right hand, working to execute Jobs’ strategies, an excellent operations man who must have had only a minor entrepreneurial leadership in his style or he would not have survived under Jobs.

Maybe he kept his entrepreneurial flair under wraps and it will now burst out? If he had this style, he would have been very frustrated under Jobs’ leadership.

At Apple, the situation is not acute.  The new CEO is not coming from the outside. The danger to entrepreneurial leadership is not that insurmountable as yet.

It would make sure sense, however, for Apple’s future if Jobs had been replaced by the head of Marketing or the head of R & D, thus keeping entrepreneurial flair in the leadership position. The fact that it did not happen, I believe, is because these people were minor players to Steve.

What should Apple do now?

There is still time. Apple must institutionalise the entrepreneurial style, something they should have done already; after all Jobs was ill for a long time.

Apple still has time to restructure so that the entrepreneurialleadership is provided by the heads of the entrepreneurial-function departments.  (Unfortunately, I do not know the structure of Apple to name them but I assume the idea is clear.) Those department heads should report to a single head, thus grouping entrepreneurship into a mass that cannot be ignored politically.

What company might step into the leading position, replacing Apple in leading the industry, if it’s entrepreneurial leadership is irreplaceable? It is certainly not going to be companies that have been relying on acquisitions to replace its source of innovation. What about Google? Might Google start eyeing this market, now that Apple has lost its main “steering wheel”? It is not in the hardware business but it has shown an enormous capability to explore markets and technologies it has not been the initiator in. And just imagine SanDisk and Google getting together…

It is too early to sell Apple short – let’s wait and see what happens with the entrepreneurial leadership role at Apple.

*We are the only company in the UK licensed to deliver theAdizes Methodology.  This methodology helps CEOs, top management teams, boards and business owners to dramatically improve the performance of their businesses, achievingsustainable revenue and profitability targets.

We are now running TopLeaf in the North East of England, a forum for entrepreneurial leaders who want to practically apply the Adizes Methodology in their companies.

To find out more about TopLeaf and how the Adizes Methodology can help your business, contact us or call us on 0191 266 4626.

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