Was Apple’s CEO a Technocrat?
Managerial performance and skills form an important subject in any organisation due the importance of leadership. Nowadays, business organisations are faced with scarceness of resources and a competitive commerce environment. Thus, the need to have a manager who can ultimately lead an organisation to success cannot be underestimated. Consequently, theorists in management have come up with various management practices that can be applied by people intending to become managers. Some of the management theories have been developed through observation of behaviour of managers. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, is renowned for changing Apple Company to one of the most innovative organizations in electronics industry. How did Jobs manage the company and what strategy did he use? Was Jobs a technocrat?
How do various managers perform their roles? According to Lampel et al. (2014, 35), managers perform their roles on three levels. The managers get directly involved in a task, they manage people by controlling their actions or they provide the information in order for people to take action. The descriptions divide the roles of a manager into a doer, a leader and an administrator. The support and commitment of the top management is critical to the success of any project in an organization. First, they have the greatest duty and responsibility for the whole organization and can, therefore, influence people towards change. Above and beyond, they also have unrestricted control of resources and, therefore, can mobilize funds required by the project. Among the three roles, managers decide on what level to engage.
Another perspective of managerial practices has categorized managers from behaviours as a technocrat, a craftsman or a technocrat. Lampel et al. (2014, 45) describes the technocrat as conservative, intense, serious, no-nonsense. Technocrats are described as dreamers who are rational and keen on world-wide trends and strategic alliances. A craftsman is a type of manager who is conservative, values experience, stimulates loyalty and commitment, and provides continuity of an organisation. The artistic manager is bold, daring, unpredictable, inspiring and imaginative. They make the organization confusing yet exciting, dizzying and unpredictable.
The managerial actions of Steve Jobs can be described using the 3Ps conceptual framework of praxis, practices, and practitioners (Whittington, 2006, 613). The strategy formulated by the CEO and undertaken by seeking a skilled team and resources and inspired the actions of the iPod developers. Jobs was the leader of the “A team” who were the practitioners of the strategy. As a strategist, the CEO initiated the innovative culture at Apple. The strategy enabled the company to sustainable growth, and created a competitive advantage over other electronics companies. The projects initiated at Apple changed the way people could listen to music, share, sell and even carry it with them.
Jobs became the CEO when Apple was involved in production of personal computers. There were competing brands such as Compaq and Dell. During the period, electronic companies had created portable music players. The latest portable MP3 music player at that time was PJB-100 manufactured by HanGo. However, the device had flaws that included poor user interface, slow response and a high price. Through the leadership of Jobs, iTunes played by iMac was developed and enabled fast and easy transfer of music files. The iMac was still slow, limited capacity of storage and expensive. Jobs decided to change Apple’s core operations. The new Apple strategy was to develop premium products with less involvement in computer production (Bill, 2009, 578).
The praxis of the strategy was development of the iPod. In the endeavour, Jobs sought the best people to create an “A team” that would develop the next revolutionary gadget in the music industry, the iPod. Rubenstein, an expert in hardware was recruited having worked for Ardent Computing and HP. Another specialist in designing, Jonathan Ive was recruited to the team. Third, was Tony Fadell, who had experience in developing gadgets at Philips and General Magic. The fourth member of the team was Michael Dhuey, a hardware engineer who had been working with Apple Company. Jobs specified that the gadget had to fit pockets, be able to store a thousand songs and easy to use. The project was to be completed in eight months. Jobs left the team to design and come up with a prototype. Jobs is described as a no nonsense guy who had no room for mediocrity. He believed in collaborative efforts in innovations and inspired people to work as described by Rubenstein from the “A team”. The iPod became a success and Jobs was able to strike a deal with record owners to enable copying and selling of music through iTunes. iTunes became the largest online music selling platform (Bill, 2009, 579).
Analysing Jobs mandate as CEO in undertaking the project, the practices used in the strategy describes his managerial practice. First, the creation of strategy classifies the CEO as a dreamer and thus technocrat. Moreover, the no-nonsense attitude as described by one the co-workers and even the “A team” creation through talented people. Another aspect that qualifies the technocratic behaviour is having created a strategic alliance by changing Apple to be an innovative centre. On the other hand, Jobs was a craftsman, who was able to stimulate commitment and loyalty in the team he created. Through the strategic change, the company managed to be competitive in the industry and survived through innovation. From the artistic view of a manager, the actions also fit the description. Jobs was very daring planning to come up with a new gadget, never seen and thus exciting. The fact that the project became a success makes him an imaginative manager, therefore, artistic.
The success of Steve Jobs in Apple had people strategy as the core ingredient. Therefore, human capital was a priority in creating practitioners who would deliver. The strategic recruiting program allowed only experts to be part of the team. A strong culture of innovation became the new mission of Apple. It enabled Apple to exit the competitive PC production market and create new gadgets. Furthermore, the strategy was explicitly stated and it enabled the company to focus on innovations. The project had a cause for urgency as advised by Kotter’s eight steps model of change. On the other hand, the level of involvement of Jobs was at leader level, because he managed through people. Jobs inspired the team to create the iPod without direct involvement. By identifying the right people, he empowered them with the vision. Besides, he was a mentor and could push the team. The CEO understood the needs of the customers and the failures in initial music player gadgets, and it enabled the creation of the “dream” of an iPod. Moreover, he understood that the project would require a team of specialists for design, hardware and software.
Bill, F., 2009. The making of the iPod. Case Study
Lampel, J., Mintzberg, H., Quinn, J. B., & Ghoshal, S. 2014. The strategy process: concepts, contexts and cases : international edition. Harlow, Pearson.
Whittington, R., 2006. Completing the practice turn in strategy research. Organization studies, 27(5), 613-634.