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Leading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius by Jay Elliot

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An Effective Structure Can Survive a Change of Command

One of the big advantages of the Apple-type organization is that it is based on products and on the innovators involved in developing and building those products, not on hierarchy or control. In a function-based organization, when there is change, particularly in upper management, it can have a profound impact through all levels. Since these organizations are built on control, the change can be dramatically negative.

But when Steve stepped down months before his death and his second-in-command Tim Cook became the new man in charge, the change had almost no impact on the organization. Prior to becoming CEO, Tim had been responsible for worldwide sales and operations plus the Mac division and played a key role in supplier relations. The change in command from Steve to Tim took place with barely a ripple on the waters.

The same was true with the departure of Ron Johnson, Apple’s head of retail. Even though he was the real founder and implementer of the worldwide Apple store business—which his vision and Steve’s design sense had made such a huge success against expectations—once again the transition was smooth.

This flexibility also applies to the board of directors. Shortly after Steve’s departure, it was announced that longtime board member Arthur Levinson would become the chairman of the board. Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger was appointed as a new board member. Both have Pirate written all over them. Art was CEO of the multibillion-dollar ...

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