In 1976, what is currently known as Apple Corporation used to be a garage workbench whose main project was a personal computer. Currently, Apple is world-known company and a multibillion-dollar manufacturer of high-end mobile devices with a very impressive catalog that includes iPhones, iPods, and iPads, as well as iMacs and Apple watches among other things. The company's production line is not, however, limited to manufacturing hardware. They also create custom software for their devices. The organizational culture within this organization is currently built around the concepts of teamwork and 'laser' focus. The employees within the organization are encouraged to always work together to achieve the company's set goals and objectives, which generally aim at making the world better with technology. Until recently, Apple focused on creating technology that could improve the quality of life of the human race. This objective explains the limited number of brands under the company's name compared to its competitors. As a business organization, Apple is known for strong brands that are very satisfying in terms of quality and efficacy among other things that distinguish the company from its competitors.
Organizational Culture of Apple
According to Nelson & Quick (2015), "Organizational culture entails a set of common understanding, to which an action is organized, of meanings or understandings shared by a group of individuals that are largely implicit among members and are clearly significant and unique to that particular group" (p.12). The organizational culture at Apple can be best defined using five pivotal characteristics that are distinct and very specific to the organization. These are excellence, secrecy, creativity, innovation, and moderate combativeness. Like many other technology-based organizations, excellence is a critical success factor of Apple. Companies that depend on their staff to come up with the best innovations cannot compromise when it comes to the excellence of their employees (Nelson & Quick, 2015). It explains why this company is particularly known for hiring only the very best in talent and credentials. At Apple, an employee is fired on the spot if they do not meet the organization's expectations in terms of performance. It means that the company currently comprises only of the best employees in the industry.
In terms of secrecy, it should be stated that Apple has quite a lot of powerful competitors with the fiercest one currently being Samsung Electronics (Martin, 2016). It means that the company values its privacy to keep the competitors from sabotaging their operations. Proprietary information and intellectual property are usually of particular importance in the technology-based industry thus the need to ensure that the company is largely protected from eventualities of stolen information and innovation. To achieve maximum security, employees have to agree to the policy when they are hired. Consequently, employees are bound by their contracts to uphold the organization's secrecy policy at all times. Secrecy also keeps the company's customers anticipating new products rather than knowing about them long before the company is ready to announce or launch these products (Nelson & Quick, 2015).
Creativity is one of the pillars of the organization's operations. It is because the company's primary focus is on product design and development, where other than the intellectual skills, creativity is a mandatory concept. It explains the need for the company's employees to exercise the highest level of creativity at all times. Employees who have limited creative abilities are often unable to fully fit into the organization owing to the fact that their job is to find solutions to consumer and business needs within the organization without relying on a blueprint to guide them. By basing the corporate culture on creativity, the organization has been able to create a free and collaborative work environment where new ideas are encouraged and explored in a collective form and the best ones pursued to fruition. At Apple, everyone is important because everyone contributes when it comes to creativity.
Innovation at Apple is indisputably the company's greatest critical success factor (Wakabayashi, 2016). This company is particularly famous for its innovation within a highly dynamic industry, and this is what has kept them in the lead not only in the United States but also within the global context. Employees within this organization are not only encouraged but also well trained to be innovative in their various capacities within the scope of their functions. To encourage and enable innovation, companies often have to deviate from the conventional hierarchical cultures and structures where limitations are imposed as a way of limiting risks associated with diversified decision-making powers within the organization. At Apple, everyone is able to come up with a working solution to a given problem. Moreover, while there is a need for approval for certain ideas to be implemented, the company's 'working on the same table' policy ensures that all the consultations are made promptly and the decisions soon afterward. This policy enables the company to be consistently at the forefront of the technology industry owing to how little time it takes to make innovative decisions.
On the characteristic of moderate combativeness, it can be appreciated that Apple was a rather aggressive organization in the past. The internal environment of the company was strategically created to challenge and push the employees to do their best and beat competition. Under Tim Cook, however, the company is taking on a more approachable and friendly attitude, with employees being coerced or wooed to perform better rather than the initial combativeness that defined Steve Jobs (Wakabayashi, 2016). This method is yet to be appraised in terms of its effectiveness within the company, but it can be expected to work quite well.
Leadership Models in Apple
According to Nelson and Quick (2015), "Leadership is the act of creating a vision that others want to be part of, laying a positive atmosphere where great things can take place and developing people to achieve their full potential" (p.188). The most noticeable concept in leadership within this organization can be seen in how Tim Cook leads the organization. He has been described as a decisive, thoughtful, charming and when need be, a data-driven leader. This characterization implies that Tim Cook is a combination of transformational and transactional leadership at the organization's helm. Based on the organizational culture, however, Apple is a largely transformational organization where people are valued for their significance to the business process (Cojocaru & Silviu, 2016). Everyone is expected to participate in decision-making, although final decisions are often left with the highest echelons of organizational power, which at this time rest with Tim Cook. It means that the most important leadership concept within the organization is based on sharing responsibilities. The leaders within the organization derive their power from the freedom accorded to the employees in terms of participation in innovation and decision-making within the company. Therefore, while the company was built based on bold and visionary leadership under Steve Jobs, it is currently thriving under a democratic and rather charismatic leadership where every individual employee is able to make influence decisions and thus shape the direction in which the organization is growing. A bold and visionary leadership can be described as one in which the leaders dictate most of the decisions, directing the employees and taking full responsibility for the activities within the organization. This approach was Steve Jobs' style and is thus not practiced within the organization anymore.
Organizational Design and Structure
Considering that secrecy is one of the pillars of this organization's culture, it is understandable that there are no clear sources regarding the details of this company's design and structure. Based on reports from the company and articles about the company, it can be noted that the organizational design can be divided into two parts. First, there are the sustaining functions, which include Sales, retail, communications, HR, and finance among others. These are the primary functions that are extremely important for the sustenance of the organization (Nelson & Quick, 2015). The other functions are considerably disruptive, and they include marketing, designs, engineering, operations, and internet software. Each one of these functions, whether sustaining or disruptive, has a manager, and the managers are directly accountable to the company's CEO. These managers are thus allowed to have supervisors or team leaders within their departments, but they all work together, regularly consulting with the CEO and his vice, as well as the other employees in the organization (Yu, 2013). It means that the overall description of the company's organizational design and structure resembles a wheel, with the CEO at the center surrounded by the heads of these other departments. It can also be noted that the organization was initially dependent on the CEO to play the role of a brand manager, currently, however, there is a head of the brand management department. It means that the CEO's role is general, but he no longer manages every aspect of the organization as Steve Jobs did.
Ethical Issues, Conflict and Managerial Concepts at Apple
Like any other business organization, Apple also faces its fair share of ethical issues, and most of these come from within the organization. With the previous management system where employees were directly under Steve Jobs, there were many cases of employee abuse in the company's overseas manufacturing plants. The company had close to half a million employees working under the transactional leadership and striving to minimize production costs. Another issue relates to how the manager treated the employees working directly under him/her. Most employees within the organization felt privileged to be a part of the company, but with Steve Jobs at the helm of power, the combativeness was a bit too much. The work environment seemed more hostile than collaborative (Cojocaru & Silviu, 2016). As a result, the conflicts arose not only between the employees but also within the leadership. Steve Jobs was particularly known for firing employees impulsively if they did not live up to his expectations while working on a project.
To correct this situation, the company currently emphasizes on a number of ethical and managerial concepts aimed at promoting effective conflict resolution in cases where the conflict is inevitable.First, Tim Cook is a very engaging leader who may not have a hands-on approach on all projects like his predecessor. His leadership, however, entails various interactions with the employees within the company thus creating a system that is more like a family. Conflicts within such an environment are mainly resolved through the dialogue. The organization currently runs on an informal concept where people interact with one another on a personal level rather than simply focusing on the tasks at hand. The managerial concept, in this case, allows for open communication as a way of resolving conflicts.
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In the event of an organizational challenge, it can be appreciated that the management at Apple holds meetings that include the employees in order to find solutions. The organizational culture is built on creativity and innovation, implying that finding solutions is a specialty for almost each employee (Yu, 2013). Thus, they are all involved in crisis meetings with the final decisions mainly coming from the CEO. The collaborative environment in this case not only helps in dealing with challenges and conflicts but also in preventing them. A recent example is a feud that the company had with Samsung Electronics. The actual outcome of the conflict is yet to be seen, but the company has shown extreme solidarity in the face of the ethical accusations of Samsung. Currently, the management of Apple has been consulting with the employees and lawyers as they find ways to counter all the moves made against the organization.
Apple Inc. is a relatively large and successful organization with a recent change in leadership that has seen the company transform from a transactional entity to the current transformational style. This change has so far yielded impressive returns, amongst them employee satisfaction and engagement. To improve this company's organizational behavior, it is important to appreciate that the current leader is doing a better job in the organization than his predecessor. The current work environment at Apple is far more conducive to the employees than it was. It means that the company will simply have to continue under Tim Cook's guidance, embracing transformational leadership where the employees are cosidered valued assets rather than a means to an end. The employee abuse situation that occurred in the past is, for example, impossible within the present contexts considering that the leadership currently cares more about employees than numbers.Building relationships, working together and empowering employees to continue innovating and collaborating is the only way to improve organizational behavior within this organization, both in the long term and in the short term.
Apple Inc. is a large and successful company that has come a long way from its inception in the 1970s. The company was, however, initially limited in its organizational culture and leadership model while under Steve Jobs. Despite being a very bold and tactical leader, Steve Jobs did not consider the potential of his employees. Tim Cook, on the other hand, focuses more on the employees, restructuring the company's leadership to share power and decision-making duties within the organization. The organizational behavior at the moment is thus well-balanced, allowing for effective operations even in the event of Tim Cook's absence. This kind of organizational structure is effective both now and in the future.