An article on the Apple culture ( What Apple employees say about the company secretive culture?  ) is a fascinating read. And the ‘funniest ‘ of the insights is the one that says that Apple makes systematic spelling mistakes in their communication memos, so that they can trace the leaks
‘I love Apple, I hate Apple ‘. Apple has that love-hate relationship in its ‘space in the world’.
I have found myself in the past, as part of discussion panels, next to ‘communication gurus,’ stating (close to shouting) ‘I hate Apple’. They never said why, or if they did, it was never clear to me, other than their ego seemed to need to stand out as ‘being different’ and make it more visible, a futile extra effort since its size was clear to all before the shouting.
Many ‘organizational gurus’ also ‘hate Apple’. You know? The culture of secrecy, centralised control, hierarchical system, all that. I myself have written in half joking way that the Soviet Union never fell completely apart, and it was resuscitated in Cupertino, California, with an apple logo instead of the hammer and sickle.
Same blank love or hate affairs are heard: I love Apple, I hate Microsoft. I hate Apple, I love Google. Love and hate affairs are free, and some of those big corporate recipients get an all or nothing treatment.
Back to that ‘terrible Apple’ of my communications guru, he seemed to ignore the tremendous success in all areas: products, innovation, financial, branding, market, the lot. When the first iPhone came out, there was that incredible social phenomena of crowds waiting for the store to open, to buy a phone from a company which has never build one before. Zero track record on phones, before. Come on!
You could treat ‘the Apple culture thing’ in at least 3 ways:
(1) It’s a one off, no point to agonise, extremely successful and extremely Soviet, who cares. It’s Apple, a category in itself, enjoy the apps.
(2) It shows zero correlation between ‘organizational structure’, ‘culture’ and ‘success’. Those people saying that hierarchical systems and cultures of secrecy are bad for you, and that this is bad management of ‘non transparent human resources’, check their SMS and Facebook posts on their iPhones.
(3) It’s Steve, stupid! It’s the (again) one off Steve! Well, he has gone and unless you want to run a pointless discussion or a silly contest on charismatic leadership, Tim Crook is there and the Apple sky is far from falling.
In my organizational architecture work, number (2) is by far the more interesting question. The reality is that there are many not well-run, strange culture, not terribly exciting leadership, middle of the road companies, doing very well. And that there are many appealing start up, or not that start up, entrepreneurial, dynamic, enlightened lead companies with a sexy organizational structure, not worth the article about them in the ‘business press’. What is going on?
Simply put, the weak correlation between anything and anything in management, which has not prevented people from writing books making a dogma of some of those ‘correlations’ and elevating them to ‘the truth’.
Culture is not something right or wrong, but functional or dysfunctional, fit for purpose or not, and above all contingent. That is, build the one you need not the one Steve needed or wanted or built.
Building cultures is like building houses. I’ll get to it tomorrow.
PS. You may have noticed some spelling mistakes in my Daily Thoughts…