Steve Jobs compared to Peter Drucker

Steve Jobs built Apple Computer into one of the most successful and valuable companies in history. He had a distinctive management style.

How would his management compare to the advice Peter Drucker would give a CEO?

Steve Jobs’ practice of management:

Heavy stress on innovation. He did not have all the innovative thoughts that proved successful but he quickly recognized a potentially successful idea or product. Since he was not risk averse, he forcefully pushed for its development.

Focused on and generated well above average profits.

Strictly limited priorities to three.

Had excellent judgment on who were the A level employees. Successfully hired and retained them. Categorized employees performing below the A level as “Bozos” – a Bozos’ employment was terminated or he made the person’s life so difficult that they left the company.

Submerged himself in all levels of the company via random walk and meetings. Aggressively practiced hand-on management of even the most minor factors. Was incredibly exacting.

Practiced full and open cross-functional communication. Hated PowerPoint presentations and written documents – preferred face-to-face, verbal discussions. His meetings included all organization levels –whoever was knowledgeable was included.

Treated all people harshly. He was difficult to work with – emotional, explosive. Angry. Accusatory. Brutally candid. Demanding in the extreme. But he created an exciting and successful culture that motivated and retained the A level employees.

Mr. Drucker’s tenets that were the same as Steve Jobs’:

Innovation was one of Mr. Drucker’s key factors for success. He advised that successful organizations abandon outdated strategies, products, and processes and have a bias for innovation. Absent innovation organizations become complacent, insular and corrupt.

“Above all management is responsible for producing results. Profit is a requirement for a company…profitability is not the purpose but rather the test of their validity.” “The ultimate test of a manager, and the only one that counts, is …accomplishment…it isn’t only accomplishing things…it’s accomplishing the right things (i.e., generating profit).”

 He was concerned with retaining and motivating “knowledge workers” – his words for A level employees.

He advocated for “ruthlessly” terminating employees who failed to perform at the A level.

Elimination of excessive bureaucracy and management layers. Apple had a layered organization but Mr. Jobs’ management practice created a somewhat unique organization with integrated, seemingly un-layered functions.

Communication. Communicate a clear strategy throughout the organization. Successful companies have a bias for frequent, repeated and in-depth communication.

Write down your priorities – no more than two. “Companies must avoid the temptation to dabble in many things.” Mr. Jobs had three.

Peter Drucker differed from Mr. Jobs with:

He “…argued for decentralization – the process of delegating decision making down into an organization, closer to the people who actually do the work…”. Mr. Jobs did not; he made the decisions, even minor ones.

To Mr. Drucker the customer was a factor critical to success. He coined the phrase: “Outside-in perspective”. Definition: customer focus, involvement, input – spend time with customers. Mr. Jobs did not want customer input, he did not seek it.

Mr. Drucker advocated for the dignity of the individual and for humanizing the workplace. “Management is about human beings. Create an atmosphere where people are permitted to make mistakes.” He would not have agreed with Mr. Jobs confrontational, bullying style.

Click on this link for an earlier posting on: Peter Drucker’s Tenets

Sources: The comparison is from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple Computer’s Chief Executive Officer titled ‘Steve Jobs’ and from two books on Peter Drucker’s tenets: “The Daily Drucker” and “Inside Drucker’s Brain”.


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