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Steve Jobs: Redefining The CEO 224

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the more-like-ring-master dept.
conq writes "BusinessWeek has a nice piece on how Steve Jobs is redefining the job of being a CEO. From the story: 'Just over a decade ago, Steve Jobs was considered washed-up, a has-been whose singular achievement was co-founding Apple Computer back in the 1970s. Now, given the astounding success of Apple and Pixar, he's setting a new bar for how to manage a Digital Age corporation.'"
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Steve Jobs: Redefining The CEO

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  • This is a "piece"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gamigad (932350) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:23PM (#14588145)
    Sorry, but somehow I expect a link to a story when I hear the word "piece". You know, with more than perhaps 200 words, especially given the subject.

    This is just a short, non-interesting slideshow.

    No news here - move along.
  • by Lord Satri (609291) <alexandreleroux@NospaM.gmail.com> on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:26PM (#14588153) Homepage Journal
    TFA is only 7 paragraphs long (with 7 pictures), but this sums it up for me:
    "Other CEOs may focus on finance or sales. Jobs spends most of his time trying to come up with the next blockbuster product."

    He's not there for the money, he's there to change the world. Well, at least, he succeeds in making us believe he's not after the money... Of course, MacOS X is not open source (yet?!), he's running a corporation after all!

    I remember his quote: "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me"
    I don't think a majority of CEO can honestly say this nowadays.
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:32PM (#14588170) Homepage
    Jobs' insistence on controlling all aspects of a product -- from hardware and software to the service that comes with them -- is the new blueprint.

    To be sure, Apple is a unique presence in the world of digital media, but the slideshow picture they put alongside this caption was that of an iMac. As far as computers go, total control of the platform is not a new idea. It is, in fact, the oldest one. That type of solution stretches back as far as the room-sized big iron of the '60s and before, but it was most publicly visible, I think, during the '80s, when several companies were vying for dominance of the personal computer market. Commodore, Atari, Apple, IBM - they all had their own little universes where you bought their hardware, ran their OS, and dealt with their disk format. Each company dreamed of taking over with its own end-to-end solution, but that didn't happen. It can be argued that the market is simply too large for any one company to hope for dominance of that kind.
  • by Councilor Hart (673770) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:40PM (#14588206)
    Unbelievable, 7 pages to smear out text that could fit easily on a single page. It takes longer to load one such page than to read it.
    It's scaring readers away. I am not waiting for your page to load, and I am not clicking multiple times to read a single article.
    And while I am at it. Since the invention of tabs, will everyone please stop using links that insist on opening in a new window. I have one window, perhaps two with multiple tabs. And new links are opened in their own tab. But, noooo, sites still insist links are opened in a new window.
    Want to keep me as a return visitor? STOP ANNOYING ME. Stop dictating how I can access your data, if you want me to see it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:42PM (#14588215)
    A focused, strong willed individual in a leadership role almost always excels over rule by committee. You can see it at Apple. You can see it with Linux. You can see it with industrial companies like Old World Industries [findarticles.com].

    Entertainments companies in particular are hurt by focus groups and rule by committee. Disney turned out a better product when Walt was still around. Turner Entertainment faired much better under Ted, than under Time Warner/AOL.

  • by Jasin Natael (14968) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:58PM (#14588281)

    He's a founder. Look what happened when John Sculley came in in the early 90's. We got the Newton, which I liked, and still like, a lot. But we also got to see the American MBA in action.

    The type of accounting and business strategy that for-hire CEO's and CFO's are trained with tells them that everything is about increasing shareholder value in the short-to-mid term (ie, no more than 2-5 years). They are unconcerned with providing value to employees or customers, unless doing so will assist them with goal #1. Even if they think they are working for the long-term success of the company, all the tools they have to put things in perspective are centered around the short-term stock value.

    When Jobs came back to Apple, it was like he was the spurned father called to the hospital when his child was morbidly ill or injured. This company is his baby, and he wants to see it succeed in the long term. He wants products that his customers will slowly come to believe they can't live without, not some flash-in-the-pan fad with the latest buzzwords attached.

    A lot of Silicon Valley CEO's are founders and have this fatherly instinct. They don't get press because they weren't ousted and then called back to fix things. Neither do the CEO's who weren't called back as their companies went to the chopping block.

    If you oust the original founders of the company, it's almost always a death sentence. Apple's board was right to call Jobs back to the helm. But don't think it's something special about Jobs. It's what any company founder should do, and what most would do, because they actually believe in what they're doing.

    Jasin Natael
  • by IAAP (937607) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:09PM (#14588331)
    should be.

    Most CEOs are just middle managers who got promoted to the top spot; either from within or were hired from another company. But the thing is, what makes a good middle manager (attention to detail, thinking about finances, day to day stuff) is exactly what makes a poor CEO. To be a great CEO, you need to think about strategy, where your market is going, where there is new markets, ner tech, etc... - Which is exactly what Jobs does. Saying he's "trying to come up with the next blockbuster product." is over-simplifying what he does.

    It's sad that corps have this mentality that you have to work your way up through the ranks before becoming a CEO. But the problem is, what gets you promoted on the lower levels actually hurts you as a CEO. (There's a reason why the average CEO job lasts less then 2 years - they fired.) If Jobs were concentrating an each department's finances and other details, he would have missed the boat on these new products.

    Gates on the other hand, is not a visionary. He is a follower (which can pay off big), but look at MS's strategy: throw money at anything new. Apple on the other hand creates something new.

    I think my point is made and I don't want to turn /. into a MBA class! :-(

  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:13PM (#14588343)
    It seems the main thing that distinguishes Jobs, according to the slideshow, is that he knows his companies' products to the point where he is unafraid to get involved with them at any level from suppliers of suppliers to design to marketing. In other words, he thoroughly knows his business.

    A CEO who thoroughly knows his business redefines what a CEO is? This merely highlights the disease that has infected much of corporate America, namely that you don't have to know shit about your business or product, all you have to know is how to manage people, whatever that means.

    This is about as effective as the idea that you don't have to know jack about math, or physics, or history in order to teach them; all you have to be is a good teacher, whatever the hell that means.

    News Flash: Intelligence, experience, knowledge and motivation are far more important in running a company than an MBA. Steve Jobs illustrates this. News at 11.
  • Art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:34PM (#14588433) Homepage
    Jobs is an artist selling art supplies. For most of their history Macs have enjoyed their greatest success as tools for graphic designers. Design always has required a single, personal vision to succeed. Those great looking toasters and clocks and cars that industry turned out in the middle of the 20th century weren't designed by committee. There were rather a handful of recognized top designers, some of whom spanned everything from streamlined steam locomotives to soap wrappers.

    So Jobs has been an industrial designer producing tools mostly used by graphic designers, who of course are sensitive to good industrial design. That's worked. More recently he's gone into the music/fashion accessories business - also one which melds easily with design, and also one where to top lines always come from a single designer's vision rather than committee. And with Pixar, as the good-looking but shallow-on-info slide show says, he knew enough about "creatives" to keep the teams small and together.

    None of this should be taken to imply that Jobs' success illustrates the right approach for industries in which design is not properly the central focus. For instance, Carter was famously a micro-managing president. Look how that worked out. The Soviet economy was micro-managed from the top (and they even started out as a culture with some very good designers). Results? Nada. The hard-earned lesson that micro-managing is bad still applies across most of the spectrum. Jobs is just fortunate to be in one of the few niches where the generalization fails.
  • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:35PM (#14588441) Homepage
    Indeed, one of the facts of life is that everyone gets topped by somebody who is better, or by somebody who will take it to the next level.

    Or the next somebody who is roughly as good as you are, once your legend starts getting torn down.

    Remember, Jobs was huge before he was torn down as being a has-been, before being built up again to who he is now. His legend will fade... We like to tear down our heroes.

  • Margaret Whitman's company (Ebay) is bigger
    Larry Ellison (Oracle) has been around longer (without leaving the company at least)
    Eric Schmidt's company (Google) gets an article on Slashdot every few hours
    Steve Balmer's company (Microsoft) sells more Operating Systems

    I guess to Jobs credit he founded a very successful company, then left and it tanked and came back and it became a great company again, but I just don't think that there's no question about him being number one as this article has implied.
  • by Jeff1946 (944062) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:45PM (#14588477) Journal
    I recall reading a story about the development of the IPOD. Several times Jobs looked at the prototype and said, "Change it, I don't like this feature." Because he controlled Apple this could happen even if it caused the schedule to slip and cost $$$. When you are right this is great. On the other hand Henry Ford stuck with the Model T too long, because he misread the consumer's needs.

    Jobs certainly has the ability to judge what will make something become a unique product. Wonder if he will have the same skills at picking movies for Disney to produce.
  • by Deanasc (201050) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:48PM (#14588491) Homepage Journal
    I don't think anyone is going to top Steve Jobs. I think that like Henry Ford there will be imitators and skillful managers who stand out. Men like Malcolm Bricklin, John Delorean and Lee Iaccoca will be forgotten long before history forgets the man who changed the face of the earth with standardized parts and the moving assembly line.

    Jobs will definately surpass Bill Gates in the history books simply because his story is so much more dramatic. Found the first personal computer company that goes beyond the simple needs of the hobbyist, get fired by the guy he hired to manage the business, start a competing business that goes nowhere, start another business that breathes new life into a 100 year old art form, get begged to come back to the company that fired you, see both businesses take off beyond all possible dreams. What did Bill Gates do? Bluff his way into buying an operating system early in the game and copy copy copy then leverage market position to unfairly damage new comers and competitors. Don't get me wrong, Bill Gates had a great idea at the right time but I doubt he'd be anything more then a footnote if he had to do it twice in his life.

  • hero worship (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rage Maxis (24353) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:57PM (#14588533) Homepage
    why are people so obsessed with rewarding single people with success of organizations?

    Why is it steve jobs that is responsible for all the success of apple?

    why was it hitler that was responsible for nazi germany?

    Why do humans always have to make everything about one person?

    This is retarded. Companies are people and teams. Not people. Countries are people. Not presidents. Parties. Committees. As soon as people stop making decisions this way maybe we'll start making some progress.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:07PM (#14588561)
    "Do you want to sell sugar water or do you want to change the world?"

    You don't come up with cool sayings like that unless you're right into it. (Or unless you have a great PR department, which I don't believe was the case).

    My impression of Jobs is that he's simply entertaining his mania. --He sees possible futures where technology becomes an idealized, humanity-altering version of itself, and he's simply trying to realize this vision by following and then occupying what seem to him the obvious and inevitable steps.

    Is he angling to go head-to-head with Microsoft? I doubt it. Guys like Jobs find reward and adrenalin rushes, etc., through realizing creative vision. Competition and the dark 'joy' of destroying competitors, and the 'joy' of collecting all the money in the world pale in comparison. Jobs is entirely capable of 'losing' to Gates, because winning and losing are of little importance when one's goal is merely to shape and advance. (Even if shaping and advancing mean being a control-freak, which is typical for people like Jobs. Nobody else can see it right or therefore do it right, so why muck about depending on others?)

    Time for a little more metaphysical etymology. . .

    "Gates" - Not quite the same as a door; doors can be opened and closed by regular individuals. A gate implies a door which is watched and controlled by somebody else, one which is designed to limit and control the flow of that which enters and exits. Bill exerts control over the flow of information.

    "Jobs" - Tasks which need doing. Steve follows the work toward his peculiar vision, and then does it, no matter how ludicrous it may appear.

    --His moves will at first seem irrational to the sharks, (and frustrated board members), because he likes to invest and play rather than invest and reap. But then when the circumstances are right and creativity blossoms, he suddenly seems like a genius.

    My only trouble is that he's embraced the idea that people don't like to think outside certain boundaries and want to be coddled, which may well be true. This bothers me, because while he's out there changing the world, I have to live in it. --And I do not like to be coddled or to have somebody else do my thinking for me.

    Candy-coated buttons piss me off. Complexity does not scare me.


    -FL

  • Role Models. . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:22PM (#14588638)
    why are people so obsessed with rewarding single people with success of organizations?

    Because most people in their lives simply manage to get to work on time, do as they are instructed, and pay their taxes. This behavior pattern does not inspire much of anything to the casual on-looker.

    Having a "vision" isn't uncommon. Uncommon, however, is the person who is brave and strong and skilled enough to go about realizing it.

    Many people strive to be so capable, and thus they look up to those who have managed it. Role models are what they are for this reason, or so I think.


    -FL

  • by sharrestom (531929) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:29PM (#14588679)
    Steve has been able to apply his midas touch to more than a single business. The number of CEO's that came claim that has to be a pretty short list. I'm pleased that he will be able to help Iger at Disney, though I always felt that his rightful throne awaits at Sony.
  • by guidryp (702488) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:41PM (#14588737)
    The biggest factor that I see is recognition of top talent. This is essentially the same thing I see Google doing.

    "Jobs has believed that small teams of top talent will outperform better-funded big ones. He has used the same approach at Pixar, where creative chief John Lasseter has led the way in creating blockbusters like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Jobs also outsources far more selectively than his rivals. He'd rather have all his creatives working together than save a few bucks by outsourcing such work overseas."

    I work designing telecom software and I see the opposite. Software personal here are hired and managed like cattle. They throw bodies at problems and the cheaper the bodies, the better(we are currently ramping India and China labs while downsizing Texas labs). They create a process that is aimed at the lowest common denominator and that is the result it has, lowest common denominator performance.

    If you want to be the best, you hire the best and remove obstacles from their path, and demand their best.

    I have occasionally had the priviledege to work in an environment that empowered the talented employees and encouraged them to do great things. It is amazing. But those days are gone now.

    Some have an almost accusatory tone when referring to Jobs micromanaging. I think of it as taking a direct interest in the quality and showing it. Encouraging his people to do great things.

    I would rather be encouraged by a perfectionist wanting great things, than the mindless hordes of management graduates with decks of powerpoint slides and MS project plans indicating when every piece is projected to be done by the headcount. Mindlessly they shuffle bodies around when reality doesn't line up to projections.

    Building leading technology will always be a least partially like producing great art. It will be the domain of creative driven talent, not commodity bodies monitored in MS project plan.

  • How naive are you? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamrock (863246) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:56PM (#14588806)

    "why are people so obsessed with rewarding single people with success of organizations? Why is it steve jobs that is responsible for all the success of apple? why was it hitler that was responsible for nazi germany? Why do humans always have to make everything about one person? This is retarded. Companies are people and teams. Not people. Countries are people. Not presidents. Parties. Committees. As soon as people stop making decisions this way maybe we'll start making some progress."

    Here's a news flash for you: the vast majority of the human race needs some sort of direction in any organizational enterprise. The guy ultimately responsible gets the credit for the organization's success, but he also gets the blame should things go wrong. The perfect example is the crew of a ship. Sure the crew all know their jobs, or should, but it's up to the captain to make sure that the jobs are being done to the benefit of the ship and crew. He's the one who has to decide where the ship is going; how best to get there; use the resources aboard, material and human etc. Sure, the other officers can give him the best advice, even the correct advice, but ultimately, somebody has to make the decision. And if you think you can operate a ship by committee, you're sadly mistaken.

    It's not a matter of obsessively rewarding single people with the success of the enterprise, it's about having a focus of direction and responsibility. Your suggestion that progress can be made without such a focus is simplistic to say the least. In an anarchistic society who makes the decisions about garbage collection, public safety, environmental protection, legislation etc? And don't be so naive as to suggest that we'll all just group hug and sing "Kumbaya" and the good inherent in humanity will magically make these things sort themselves out. The average human is more than willing to pass the buck and let somebody else worry about this stuff.

  • by macwise77 (876493) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @02:59PM (#14588816)
    But don't think it's something special about Jobs. It's what any company founder should do, and what most would do, because they actually believe in what they're doing.
    I think you've hit the nail on the head, though maybe even more literally than you realize. Jobs is a CEO who has a passion for what he does. He, unlike so many of todays CEO's, managers, and even business/corporation owners, truly thinks to himself, "we have the best thing since sliced bread"; the only difference between Jobs and all the other leaders in business today is that his belief is founded more in truth than not. I know that some may blast me by questioning why Apple only has 3-5% market share if the products are so great.

    I realize that some see scale as proof of ultimate value. I prefer to look at things in context. Sure, generic PC's with Windows pre-installed is all the rage among computer buyers (in general). However, we are in a market that is dollar driven, where the emphasis of our buying decisions has been placed squarely on the price aspect. That doesn't mean that a Ford is better than a BMW. Of course, it also doesn't mean that a Jaguar is better than a Ford!

    My point here is that Apple is so fascinating, and their products so exquisite, simply because the person who has power to make change, both within the company and outside in the world is taking full opportunity to do so. His motivation is not money first (though he seems comfortable being moderately loaded). I believe his greatest asset (and motivation) is that he can sleep at night knowing that whatever he is selling at the time, he truly feels that there's no better alternative. The guy may seem cocky, but I think he's set the bar so high mainly by his confidence to get the job done right the first time. (haha, that's a pun.)
  • by afidel (530433) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @03:01PM (#14588827)
    The way he can raise the bar is to turn Disney around. If he turns two large companies around AND starts a sucessful company then he will be even more of a legend then he already is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2006 @03:07PM (#14588847)
    You know, everybody says humans are the dominant species on Earth. But I question that.
    Cheetahs run faster.
    Gorillas are stronger.
    Giraffes are taller.
    Dolphins are smarter.

    I guess to the humans' credit, they founded some very successful cities, sometimes they wreck them in wars but they become great cities again, but I just don't think there's no question about them being number one as the conventional wisdom implies.

    -----

    The point of this post is what makes Steve Jobs successful may be what makes humans successful: The ability to come up with a vision and integrate many abilities into a new combined ability that's more powerful than any individual ability. Commentators often refer to Apple's products that way: They're not the best at any one thing, but they're so consistently thought out and integrated that they end up working better, easier and in more generally reliable and appealing way than most competing products.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @04:23PM (#14589348)
    I think it was very savvy of Jobs to buy the computer graphics division of LucasFilm to create Pixar, but it's John Lasseter who made Pixar what it is today.

    One could argue that a large part of Pixar's success has been Job's willingness to stay out of day-to-day operations and concentrate on the business side.
  • Singular, indeed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MisterSquid (231834) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @05:11PM (#14589607)

    Indeed, Jobs says with pride that Pixar has made the tough call to stop production at some point on every one of its movies to fix a problem with a storyline or character. "Quality is more important than quantity, and in the end, it's a better financial decision anyway," Jobs told BusinessWeek last year. "One home run is much better than two doubles," he said, explaining that then there's only one marketing and production budget rather than two.

    This is a profound statement of commitment and speaks volumes not only about Pixar's approach to technology, but Apple's as well. Apple's focus on Mac OS X and a high quality experience with all of its hardware--from iMac to Powerbook to Powermac to iPod nano to iPod video--is the product of a singular mind. We've all heard about Jobs' influence on all aspects of product development and what strikes me is how the above quote resembles Apple's notorious commitment to a single-button mouse. It's almost as if a one-button mouse is a metaphor in hardware for the singular attention Jobs, (hence) Apple, and Pixar devote to its products.

    I hope we see a new Disney come out of this merger more than we see a new Pixar.

  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @05:56PM (#14589847)
    I dislike his basic beliefs. Contrary to popular belief, he does not have a special vision other then create proprietary stuff that looks pretty so a to sucker people into buying it. He is different in that he understands that his role is that of a PR firm and not a technology company, but IMHO, that is not a good thing.

    Maybe his "audience" does't mind being suckered into costly proprietary stuff that constantly becomes obsolete, but in the big picture he is really a drain. Even worse, he is a bigger distraction to the things in technology that matter - like freedom from controll. A concept the pretty proprietary world may never grasp.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2006 @05:58PM (#14589860)
    Agreed.. This rewriting of Jobs history in the computer industry is pure flatulence, a lot of thunder but if you get up close to examine it in depth, it smells ..odd.. If someone wants to praise Jobs' accomplishments in light of the facts, you ought to try to read a good book or two on the subject. Like this one [barnesandnoble.com] or this one [barnesandnoble.com]

    All I can say is Jobs' reality distortion field effect is alive and well in 2006. who'd a believed it..
  • by jbolden (176878) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @08:46PM (#14590814) Homepage
    I think its totally unfair to Bill Gates. Bill Gates is like Roy Kroc [wikipedia.org] he invented a model of how the computer business should work.

    1) He moved hard into PCs early
    2) He licensed freely and openly
    3) He didn't use copy protection but rather went for a moral and legal attacks on piracy
    4) He almost tried to be the cheapest software in his quality class, and started price wars as a core business technique
    5) He aimed his products at non hobbiests and non professionals having a vision of "a computer on every desk".
    6) He was patient and allowed products time to mature. Early versions of most very succesful Microsoft products were terrible
    7) He promoted from within and took care of his employees.

    No he was computer visionary in terms of any specific technology but he was/is a business visionary.
  • by dustpuppy (5260) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @10:05PM (#14591173) Homepage
    In my opinion, the CEO role is more about being a leader, not a manager (that's what your underlings are for). Steve Jobs is leading. He's showing vision and implementing it.

    Most CEO's these days are nothing more than managers - they worry about the bottom line, their idea of raising profits is limited to cost cutting, and basically spend their time looking back at the last quarters results (to see where they can cut more costs) than looking forward.

    So no, I don't think Steve Jobs is 'redefining' the CEO role - I think he's merely showing up how crap most CEOs actually are.
  • by Deanasc (201050) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:47PM (#14594770) Homepage Journal
    Bill Gates had nothing to do with the open platform of the IBM PC. That was purely by accident. IBM had failed to maintain control over the market place when they lost the reverse engineering lawsuit with Compaq. Up until then competing computers like the Kaypro ran CPM instead of DOS, a competing operating system. Had IBM maintained a strangle hold on the PC compatible market the story would be completely different.

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