Sunday, 23 October 2011

No Excuses Allowed

image (c) Jonathan Mak
As the web weeps with it's tributes to Steve Jobs' passing this month, there have been some interesting items from business publications that have come back into the light. Of particular interest is Jobs' handling at Apple which may not be to everyone's tastes.

I came across Adam Lashinsky's article and it simply struck me: Jobs' mold for Apple is certainly not one that may fit into many large multinationals but there are some notes that should not be passed by.

The first item recounts Jobs' displeasure at the failed launch of MobileMe and as Job's collected the teams responsible together, he asked:
"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?"

Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, "So why the f*ck doesn't it do that?"
Business commentators have lamented Jobs' hard handling management style but as an organisation of professional staff, there should be very few technical reasons why teams with clear responsibilities fail to deliver.

However, for me, the main and more important punch of Lashinsky's article is this assertion:
Jobs imagines his garbage [...] not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets 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 [...] Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering."
This is absolutely correct. Everyone should be accountable. If there is no accountability we have no way to reasonably expect our services to be delivered whether it's at the office or elsewhere.

We should all hold the same expectations on others and they should all do what they are paid to do: no excuses allowed.

Think Differently? More people should think the same.

Additional Note:

Whilst the passing of Jobs was noted as a loss of one of the greatest consumer technology innovators of a generation, there was a lot less noise in the media surrounding Dennis Ritchie's passing in the same month. Ritchie, who co-created the C language and also the UNIX OS, should be praised in equal if not in louder voices.

Whilst history will show that Jobs oversaw the coming of the seminal ipod/iphone/ipad products, it should be noted that Jobs' return to Apple was via the acquirement of NeXT - a UNIX OS that became the basis for Mac OSX and in turn the forefather to iOS. None of this would have been possible without Ritchie.

We should all recognise Ritchie's contributions to the world, and that his work enabled other people - such as Jobs - to build their success.

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