Three Crucial Roles that Can Create Business Success (A Case Study about Apple from the NY Times)

{This is prompted by a terrific article, with many images that add insight, in the New York Times about Apple:  How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher.  Both Tyler Cowen and Paul Krugman have praised this article.  Cowen says it deserves one of the Sidney Awards from David Books:  “This is an excellent article, and perhaps it will win one of David Brooks’s Sidney Awards.”  Many others have written favorable reviews of the article.  In other words, it has been all over the place on the web!}

Though the article is being discussed regarding about Apple’s use of/dependence on work done in China, the article is an amazing Business Success 101 tour de force.

Here is what we learn, boiled own to a simple formula.  A company needs three roles filled very, very well to achieve success.  Here are those three roles:

#1 – The Role Of The “This Is What Needs To Be Done” Leader
#2 – The Role Of The “This Is How We Are Going To Get That Done” Make-It-Happen Overseer
#3 – The Role Of The “I/We Will Get That Done For You” Worker(S)

In the article, Steve Jobs, of course, filled the role of #1 – The Role Of The “This Is What Needs To Be Done” Leader.  Here’s the key excerpt:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.
Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.
People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

And then, the role of the #2 – The Role Of The “This Is How We Are Going To Get That Done” Make-It-Happen Overseer (“overseer” is the word I propose) was played by a “get to it to get-it-done” executive:

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

A production line in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. The iPhone is assembled in this vast facility, which has 230,000 employees, many at the plant up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. (Thomas Lee/Bloomberg News)

And then ultimately the role of the #3 – The Role Of The “I/We Will Get That Done For You” Worker(S) was filled by Foxconn at Foxconn City in China.  The article is worth reading just to see how amazing their scheduling capabilities are at this company.

These three roles provide the essence of business success.. You have to know what to do; you have to have someone (know how to) make that happen; and then you have to have workers actually fulfill the “make it happen” role.

Call it what you want:  vision; planning; execution.  But this article in the New York Times is a great case study of just how to succeed in business.  These three roles have to be filled — and filled well!

(I’ll leave the discussion about sending some of the jobs overseas for others to discuss.  And, yes, there are some pretty serious issues to discuss about worker conditions.  But such discussion does not change the need for these three roles to be filled – and filled well).

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