Monday, May 16, 2011

The Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President

Fortune has an article in their May 23, 2011 Fortune 500 issue on the inner workings of Apple (Inside Apple: From Steve Jobs to the Janitor) by Adam Lashinsky.  Lashinsky covers a lot of interesting ground - - one is "the sermon" Jobs gives to new vice presidents at Apple - -

" . . . and it's a sermon Jobs delivers every time an executive reaches the VP level.  Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he jets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn't have a key.  This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living.  The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong.  Senior people do not.  "When you're the janitor," Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, "reasons matter."  He continues, "Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering."  That "Rubicon," he has said, "is crossed when you become a VP."  (Apple has about 70 vice presidents out of more than 25,000 non-retail-store employees.)

Jobs indoctrinates a culture of responsibility by hosting a series of weekly meetings that are the metronome that sets the best for the entire company.  On Mondays he meets with his executive management team to discuss results and strategy as well  as to review nearly every important project in the company.  On Wednesday he holds a marketing and communications meeting.  Simplicity breeds clarity, as Jobs himself explained in a 2008 interview with Fortune.  "Every Monday we review the whole business," he said.  "We look at every single product under development.  I put out an agenda.  Eighty percent is the same as it was the last week, and we just walk down it every single week.  We don't have a lot of processes at Apple, but that's one of the few things we do just to stay on the same page."  It's one thing when the leader describes the process.  It's another thing altogether when the troops candidly parrot back the impact it has on them.  "From a design perspective, having every junior-level designer getting direct executive-level feedback is killer," says Andrew Borovsky, a former Apple designer who runs 80/20, a New York design shop.  "On  a regular basis you either get positive feedback or are told to stop doing stupid shit."

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