Apple’s Juice

I’m a fan of Apple. A MacBook is what I use now and I used an iBook before that. Recently, Apple introduced upgraded versions of its MacBook Air. The Air is super thin and light and uses memory like you use in your digital camera instead of a hard drive. There’re no moving parts, now you can add “sturdy” into the description.

The new Airs are lighter, thinner, and faster. They’ve gotten great reviews and are touted as likely to replace both Apple’s Macbook and MacBook pro laptops. A couple of years ago the Air seemed like Apple was just showing off its laptop manufacturing superiority. The first Airs were almost a novelty, but now it’s moved up to be the equal and likely successors of Apple’s other laptops.

How does Apple do it? It keeps hitting home runs.

Here’re a few ideas I took away from “Inside Apple” by Adam Lashinsky who tried to get to the heart of Apple’s process. Here’s where Apple gets some of its juice:

Communication is clearly and constantly articulated from the top (Steve Jobs) during executive meetings each Monday and Wednesday. On Monday, every important project in the company is reviewed, results discussed, and strategy refined. Then on Wednesday, marketing and communications are covered. About 80% of the material in the meetings can be from the previous week. Nothing gets missed and everyone is on the same page getting positive feedback or being told to stop what they’re doing.

“You can ask anyone in the company what Steve wants and you’ll get an answer, even if 90% of them have never met Steve.”

Accountability is always assigned and known. Internally, Apple always assigns a directly responsible person or DRI so that there’s no confusion over who’s responsible for what and so others know who to contact.

Apple is now a huge company but decisions to start or kill a project are made quickly. “Saying no at Apple is as important as saying yes.” And  “If the executive team decides to change direction, it’s instantaneous.”

Interestingly, the profit and loss worries are worried about primarily by the finance chief. The managers work as a unified team with all the ideas being shared and followed up on, with the focus being on only a few things at a time. And Apple will spend whatever it takes.

Apple seems to be a tough place to work because of the high expectations and some rigid structure, but it has a very low turnover rate. Probably because the people who work there like making the coolest products in the world.

Thinking differently – Whereas at Microsoft they’re looking for areas of unrealized revenue and then they’ll try to figure out what to make; Apple comes up with great products, then sells them.

When I first saw one a couple of years ago, I thought the MacBook Air was cool, but a little impractical. Now, with the upgrades, I know what my next computer will be.