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Apple is a “boring operations company”, says former long time employee

Bradley Wint
Jan 19, 2017 9:56pm AST
Photo: 9to5mac

Apple may be a money spinning cash cow, but with Steve Jobs no longer at the helm, former employees are slowly coming out with what’s really going on behind the scenes.

According to former software engineer, Bob Borrough, since Tim Cook took the helm at Apple after Steve Jobs’ passing, “the very first thing [he] did as CEO was convert Apple from a dynamic change-maker into a boring operations company.”

According to Borrough, when he first joined the company under Jobs’ management, his role never dictated the type of projects he eventually worked on. Even though his job specs technically had him assigned to certain tasks as an engineer, he found himself being part of many other non-related projects.

This seemed to be the case across the board, as assignments always got priority over organizational structure. He said that that flexibility, or ‘conflict’ as he put it helped to drive innovation towards a single goal.

It seems that the conflict between teams, led to a somewhat competitive atmosphere, resulting in the best products being put out on the market.

Borrough then went on to say that under Cook’s management, the culture has since changed significantly where teams and managers follow a more organizational and structured pattern. More middle managers were added to the chain, bogging down any conflict to the lower level engineers.

Even though Apple has been churning out billions of dollars in revenue and profits as of late, the company seems to be riding a lot on its one trick pony (the iPhone) instead of innovating to properly develop other ideas such as self driving cars, Internet of Things, and TVs.

When asked about whether Steve Jobs encouraged conflict, he responded with a detailed answer which can be viewed here.

First, I see nothing in my history of working with Steve Jobs that suggests he thought conflict was good and useful tool. Rather, I recall several examples where Steve positively and actively worked to resolve conflict. For example, in 2008 there was a rash of transfers between the iPod and the iPhone software divisions. A lot of these transfers were driven by a palpable sense of fear within the iPod division that iPod was dying. People were generally afraid that we were going to come to work one day and find ourselves out of a job, having been made obsolete by iPhone.

What Steve did was gathered us all together and reminded us that the reason Apple works so well is that each team contributes a small piece that compliments what the other teams are doing. “Where would the iPod be without iTunes?” He asked. He reminded us that Apple was something much greater than the sum of its parts. Finally, he challenged us. He told us that for our organization to be successful, we had to spend every day trying to make the best products we possibly can. He certainly didn’t giving us a rousing pep-talk to go “beat the pants off those guys!”

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