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
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months ago
This will be taught in Grad College in the Business World. Case study time.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dekema2 Avatar
7 months ago
Never heard of Apple University
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JPack Avatar
7 months 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

General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
apple park drone june 2018 2

Apple Fires Newly Hired Ex-Facebook Product Manager Following Revelations of Past Misogynistic Comments

Thursday May 13, 2021 12:10 am PDT by
Apple has fired Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager and author of the controversial book "Chaos Monkeys," following public and internal calls for removal and investigation due to past misogynistic statements, The Verge reports. Apple hired Martínez earlier this week to join its ads team, however, comments that Martínez made in the past sparked condemnation from users...
imac m1 blue isolated 16x9 500k

M1 iMac is Up to 56% Faster Than Prior-Generation High-End 21.5-Inch iMac

Wednesday May 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Apple's M1 iMacs are set to start delivering to customers next week, and ahead of the official launch day, benchmarks for the machines have been showing up on Geekbench, likely from reviewers who are testing them. It will come as no surprise that M1 iMac benchmarks are right on par with benchmarks for the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, coming in with an average single-core score...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
fortnite apple logo 2

Judge in Epic vs. Apple Case Floats Potential Compromise

Wednesday May 12, 2021 3:54 pm PDT by
In the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the two companies are this week calling up their expert witnesses to argue their points before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will make a decision in the case after a three week trial. Expert testimony is not as exciting as some of the leaked App Store documents that were highlighted last week, especially as much of what's being...
google photos

PSA: Google Photos Unlimited Storage Ends Next Month, Here's How to Export Your Pictures to iCloud

Thursday May 13, 2021 5:26 am PDT by
For as long as it's existed, Google Photos has offered free unlimited storage for uploading images at a reduced yet good enough quality for most users. From June 1, 2021, however, all photos and videos uploaded to Google accounts will count against users' cloud storage. If you've been relying on Google to back up your media library, it may be time to move that content elsewhere. This article...
AirTag in Envelope Feature 2

AirTag Used to Successfully Track a Mailed Package Across the UK

Wednesday May 12, 2021 8:44 am PDT by
An Apple customer in the United Kingdom has successfully used Apple's Find My network to track an AirTag as it was being sent by mail to a friend in a completely different city. Outlined in a blog post at Intego, Kirk McElhearn said he taped an AirTag to a piece of card, wrapped it inside a small bubble envelope, and then sent it on its way. Kirk lives in the small town of...
m1 ipad pro chip

M1 iPad Pro Over 50% Faster Than Previous Generation in Early Benchmarks

Tuesday May 11, 2021 11:56 am PDT by
Last month, Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with the same M1 chip found in the latest Macs, and early benchmark results indicate that the M1 iPad Pro is over 50% faster than the previous-generation iPad Pro. Based on five legitimate Geekbench 5 results (here's the fifth) for the fifth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M1 chip, the device has average single-core and multi-core scores of...
prosser macbook air colors stacked

Images Reveal Colorful New MacBook Air Design

Tuesday May 11, 2021 5:06 am PDT by
Apple's next MacBook Air will feature a completely new design and come in a range of colors like the 24-inch iMac, according to leaker Jon Prosser, who has now released supposedly accurate renders of the new machines based on leaked images. In a new video uploaded to YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser elaborated on his previous prediction that Apple's next-generation MacBook Air models ...
iPhone 13 Camera Backs

iPhone 13 Models Will Be Slightly Thicker and Will Have Larger Camera Bumps

Monday May 10, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 models will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 models and will also feature larger, thicker camera bumps with lenses that protrude less, according to iPhone 13 schematics seen by MacRumors. The new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are expected to feature a thickness of 7.57mm, up from 7.4mm in the iPhone 12 models. That's an increase of 0.17mm, which won't be hugely ...