How does Apple do it?

I often hear people ask, how does Apple do it? How are they able to release amazing products time and time again, products that redefine markets, products that are beautifully designed? The answer seems very clear to me, focus. Apple has a single minded focus and commitment to producing great products.

This is not just a slogan or corporate vision, the Oakland Raiders have their “Commitment to Excellence” but when the rubber meets the road, does anyone see that commitment? While Apple does not even need to state a vision, it permeates and oozes out of every pore of the company. Every product they release, every store they open, all marketing and communications, everything is all very Apple.

Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive have no magic potion, they are both obviously smart guys, but I hate to tell you the magic they have is not in the ability to imagine or design amazing products. You can check out an Apple forum nearing any launch and see amazing designs and ideas from hundreds of people. The design and ideas aren’t amazing, it comes down to the execution; this is where Apple becomes brilliant.

The whole company aligns around the next product development and launch. Each employee becomes dedicated to the product and their role in execution. Everyone knows how high the bar of excellence is set and aims for that; it is in the culture of the company to be great. So when an engineer is working on a task, she doesn’t leave it at good enough, she puts in that little extra to take it to the next level.

Culture

Their culture is the overall biggest asset Apple has, Steve Jobs is a great leader because he was able to infuse the company with his demand for excellence. You can see this at Pixar also, same commitment and focus to creating the best they possibly can. Watch any of the DVD behind the scenes of a Pixar movie and you’ll see it. Apple should continue down this path as long as they continue to embrace the culture, with or without Steve Jobs.

The problem will be if the next CEO and leaders start injecting a new culture; maybe by trying to cut cost they start skimping a little here or there, maybe their focus becomes increasing profit margins or market share and not excellence. They may not do it on purpose, but the values at the top permeate through, as Jobs shows when you truly value excellence it pays off.

So, what does your organization value? When the rubber meets the road, do you start cutting features, take short cuts on quality to make it out the door? Are you planning, designing and aiming for making an amazing product or just trying to get something launched?