I had come to Apple with some management skills I picked up in my years at IBM, where, for a time, I was part of that research team in San Jose developing what would become the forerunner of the ATM. The team included a unique group of engineers—very independent guys, trying to do their own thing. But independent wasn’t a term in the IBM vocabulary. For every group like this, IBM always assigned a senior manager, supposedly a mentor but more of a monitor, to oversee the operation and keep it under control. Even though we were working in a research center, and actually called a Skunk Works unit, we were nowhere as free to operate as Steve Jobs was in his Macintosh days.
If you have your eyes set on creating autonomy within a larger company, you’ll need to realize that the degree of freedom and independence Steve Jobs was able to wrest from Apple in some ways went a good deal beyond what is reasonable to expect in other situations. It helped that he had a champion supporting his cause: as a vice president, I was able to find ways of protecting the Mac group against attempts by the Apple bureaucracy to rein him in.