Thursday, February 23, 2012

Steve Jobs Was a Great Project Manager

Steve Jobs Was a Great Project Manager

Now let’s look at Apple – take 2. When Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, some important traits had changed for the better. And some had been good all along.


In general, Jobs was a decisive leader. There are examples when he wasn’t sure which direction to go in, but for the most part he always had a strong feeling about a particular direction he wanted the company to go.

When he made up his mind, that was all she wrote in most cases. Even better, in these years he showed signs of actually changing his mind. With the Apple stores he had been set to organize them by product, and Ron Johnson told him they should be organized around the different types of uses instead.. 6 months after he had been working on iterating a prototype store, all organized around products. Jobs was irate and going into a meeting told Johnson to shut his mouth and not mention it to anyone. Then in the meeting he surprised Ron by saying “Ron thinks we’ve got it all wrong. He thinks it should be organized not around products, but around what people do. And you know, he’s right.”

He didn’t waffle, he changed his mind decisively and immediately set the team out to execute on it. You’ll also notice Jobs giving more credit to people other than himself like this, starting in the late 90′s with his return to Apple. I like it.

Visionary and Charismatic

These traits are impossible for anyone to deny Jobs, throughout his career. He was able to imagine a radical new future state over and over. Even more important, he had the charisma and salesmanship to convince everyone else to follow his vision.

As project managers the better we are at this, the more effective we’ll be in leading our teams to success.


A common thread you’ll notice throughout Jobs’ career is focus, almost to a fault. Sometimes this resulted in micro-management on tiny aspects of a product most people consider trivial and unimportant. But every detail was important to Jobs.

His product launches were a result of meticulous attention to detail, ensuring everything was just right. Apple products were and are the same, setting the company and not just it’s products, but the ‘Apple Experience’ apart from the rest.

Collaborative, Integrated Process

Jobs looked at products as something to be developed in an integrated fashion. After he came back to Apple, he tried to eliminate the ‘throw it over the wall’ and ‘that other department’ mentality by including all groups in discussions around new products.

He also ensured that key new hires met with key players from all departments, not just those they would be working in. This further ensured new employees had a sense for the whole and not just their own little silo in the company.

Most of all, he understood that the full value stream of a product is what matters, not individual steps. From designing the optimal customer experience at Apple stores and the packaging of all Apple products to the inclusion of marketing, sales, manufacturing, hardware and software development people in every step of the product life cycle — he saw the importance of that full value stream.

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