Apple’s Executive Shake-Up: What You Can Learn

It's not every day that the world's biggest company shakes up its executive pecking order. What they did, and what you can take away.

When Hurricane Sandy was just starting to make waves on the East Coast, a storm of a different kind was coming out of Cupertino, California.

Your association might not be as complex as Apple. But there are lessons from Apple’s executive shake-up all the same.

In Apple’s biggest management shakeup since Steve Jobs rejoined the company in 1997, a number of company executives had their roles expanded or changed — and a couple others were revealed to be leaving.

Your association might not be as complex as Apple. But there are lessons from Apple’s executive shake-up all the same:

Play to your executives’ strengths: Jony Ive has spent more than a decade helping to build Apple’s hardware products into some of the sharpest in the industry. Meanwhile, the company has faced some criticism for increasingly tacky design in its software products — most notably the fake felt and leather textures used in its Game Center iOS app. Now, Ive will oversee software design as well. Similarly, Eddy Cue, who has had success with the company’s cloud-based products, will now oversee Siri and Apple Maps — two products that are ultimately cloud-based. With these changes, the company could turn weaknesses into strengths.

Bring back the star player: For years, Bob Mansfield played a key role running the company’s hardware department. In June, the company announced Mansfield’s retirement. In August, it was revealed he would stay on in a new role. On Tuesday, we found out the new role is senior vice president of technologies. Convincing someone to stay isn’t always easy — but it may be worth it.

Understand your boss’ M.O.: When Apple’s recent Maps product faced harsh reviews from customers and critics, the company issued an apology signed by CEO Tim Cook — after Scott Forstall, the executive who demoed the product, reportedly refused to sign. While Steve Jobs may not have been as quick to apologize for such a gaffe, Cook has built a reputation for being willing to own up to mistakes. And it’s a lack of accountability that may have sunk Forstall, who was fired.

Make sure the exec fits the culture: While Forstall’s departure got most of the headlines, another executive whose departure was announced in the statement was that of John Browett, who had been the company’s senior vice president of retail operations for just seven months. Browett came from a U.K. retail chain, Dixons, whose reputation was very different from Apple’s. And when Browett’s cost-focused changes hit the Apple Stores, they went over poorly. To put it simply, it’s better to choose the right person to run things the first time than deal with embarrassment later.

Have you ever shaken up your board? What lessons did you learn? And what can you take from seeing what a big company like Apple does? Let us know in the comments.

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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