Apple University Dean Shares Deep Dive Into Apple's Organizational Structure

Apple University dean and vice president Joel Podolny today wrote an in-depth article on Apple's organizational structure for Harvard Business Review.

appleparknovember
Titled "How Apple is Organized for Innovation," Podolny's piece delves deep into Apple's structure and how that has helped it grow over the years. Starting back when Jobs took over the company when he returned to Apple 1997, Podolny explains how Jobs fired the managers of each individual business unit and converted Apple into "one functional organization," a setup that Apple continues to have to this day.

As was the case with Jobs before him, CEO Tim Cook occupies the only position on the organizational chart where the design, engineering, operations, marketing, and retail of any of Apple's main products meet. In effect, besides the CEO, the company operates with no conventional general managers: people who control an entire process from product development through sales and are judged according to a P&L statement.

Apple's structure dictates that the people who have the most expertise and experience in a given domain should have the decision rights for that domain, with the company relying on technical experts rather than managers to make key decisions.

applefunctionalorganization
Apple's financial structure, where executive bonuses are based on companywide financial success rather than departmental success, also allows for more freedom when it comes to product decisions because there's not specific financial pressure on a single release. "The finance team is not involved in the product road map meetings of engineering teams, and engineering teams are not involved in pricing decisions," writes Podolny.

All of Apple's managers, from senior vice president and down, are expected to have deep expertise in their area, immersion in detail of the work being done under their leadership, and willingness to collaborate and make collective decisions. "Leaders should know the details of their organization three levels down," is one of Apple's principles.

As Apple has grown, Apple CEO ‌Tim Cook‌ has needed to make adjustments to the structure as Apple enters into new markets and technologies.

The adjustments ‌Tim Cook‌ has implemented in recent years include dividing the hardware function into hardware engineering and hardware technologies; adding artificial intelligence and machine learning as a functional area; and moving human interface out of software to merge it with industrial design, creating an integrated design function.

Podolny's full piece goes into much more detail on how Apple's internal structure works, complete with many examples of Apple's successes. It can be read in full at Harvard Business Review.

Top Rated Comments

az431 Avatar
6 weeks ago


Them writing an HBR article about innovation is the best indicator they stopped innovating.

Yeah that makes zero sense.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eastwoodandy Avatar
6 weeks ago


Sounds great in theory, but in reality, do people really think executives aren't going to direct their attention to financially under-performing units?

If one unit is under-performing, another has to make up for the deficiency in order to maintain company-wide financial targets. Everyone ends up looking at the bottom line.

HomePod not selling well? Let's increase the mark up of iPhone accessories in response.

But there isn’t a HomePod division, that’s the point. The success of the HomePod is spread over most of those divisions, Sales, Marketing, Design, Software, Hardware Engineering etc
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple Freak Avatar
6 weeks ago


Never heard of Apple University

I'd love to attend but you have to be an employee first.


What's baffling is that some people want to work for that company

I'd DIE to work for Apple someday!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Theyayarealivin Avatar
6 weeks ago
This will be taught in Grad College in the Business World. Case study time.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dekema2 Avatar
6 weeks ago
Never heard of Apple University
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JPack Avatar
6 weeks ago


Apple's financial structure, where executive bonuses are based on companywide financial success rather than departmental success, also allows for more freedom when it comes to product decisions because there's not specific financial pressure on a single release. "The finance team is not involved in the product road map meetings of engineering teams, and engineering teams are not involved in pricing decisions," writes Podolny.

Sounds great in theory, but in reality, do people really think executives aren't going to direct their attention to financially under-performing units?

If one unit is under-performing, another has to make up for the deficiency in order to maintain company-wide financial targets. Everyone ends up looking at the bottom line.

HomePod not selling well? Let's increase the mark up of iPhone accessories in response.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

maxresdefault

Italy Fines Apple $12 Million for Misleading iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Monday November 30, 2020 3:10 am PST by
Apple has been slapped with a 10 million euro ($12 million) fine by Italy's antitrust watchdog for unfair commercial practices related to its iPhone marketing in the country. One of the Apple ads cited in the Italian watchdog's proceedings (credit: setteBIT) Specifically, Apple is being charged for misleading claims in promotional messages about how deep and how long iPhones can be submerged...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
General cyber monday 20 sale feature

Apple Cyber Monday 2020: Discounts on iPads, Macs, AirPods, and More [Updated]

Monday November 30, 2020 6:25 am PST by
Today is Cyber Monday, a shopping event that sees many of the same deals from Black Friday bleed over into a new week, along with a few brand new offers on everything from Apple products to related accessories. In this post we'll highlight the best online discounts that you can find on Apple devices today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
periscope iPhone feature2

Apple Moving Forward With Plans for 'Folded' Periscope Cameras to Significantly Increase iPhone's Optical Zoom

Monday November 30, 2020 8:01 am PST by
Apple is advancing its plans to significantly enhance the iPhone's optical zoom range using periscope lens technology, according to ETNews. Citing industry sources familiar with the development of iPhone cameras, ETNews report says Apple is currently seeking an appropriate "folded" periscope camera solution for the iPhone and has already initiated discussions with suppliers. Apple has...
apple fitness plus instructor kim ngo

Apple Fitness+ Promotion Ramps Up as Launch Approaches

Sunday November 29, 2020 11:57 am PST by
Promotion for Apple Fitness+ is ramping up, with advertising initiatives and teases from instructors being spotted on social media, indicating that the new subscription service may be launching imminently. MacRumors reader Chris Weaver spotted that Best Buy has started advertising six-month free trials of Apple Fitness+ with Apple Watch purchases. The advert suggests that retailers have...
iphone 12 colors

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last month in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 are ...
mac mini macbook pro macbook air m1

Notable Developer Starts Patreon to Fund Apple Silicon Linux Port

Monday November 30, 2020 4:23 pm PST by
Developer Hector Martin, who describes himself as someone who "likes putting Linux on things," has launched a plan create a Linux port for Apple Silicon Macs. Martin, also known as "Marcan," has created a Patreon with the goal of earning enough funding to be able to take on the complexities of bringing Linux to Macs equipped with an M1 chip. Creating a Linux port is no easy task, and Linux...
leather sleeve iphone 12 box

Hands-On With the Leather Sleeve for iPhone 12 Models

Monday November 30, 2020 2:13 pm PST by
Apple this year came out with a handful of accessories for the new iPhone 12 models, and in addition to the standard Silicone and Leather cases, there's also a new Leather Sleeve that recently went on sale. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We picked up one of the Leather Sleeves to check it out to see if it's worth the $129 that Apple is charging. The Leather Sleeve ...