Browsing the archives for the apple tag.

Two Birds, One Stone… Some Quality Inspiration & Lessons From Steve Jobs


Yeah, so I had two posts that I was itching to write today.  I knew the latest View from the Q posted and had something to do with finding inspiration in quality leaders.  Then, I wanted to give some props to a local stamping manufacturer, its leadership and interns after touring the facility again several months after a change of leadership shifted and rekindled improvement efforts.  Who knew the two posts would collide into one?

The connection with my experience today with the interns was that they inspired me with their enthusiasm for quality and pride in what they had accomplished.  There’s this percentage of people that just dive into things and get passionate about stuff. They see things intuitively focused on improvement and delight in creating efficiency, see opportunities in all things and go the extra mile to both learn and do. And, props to any organization that utilizes and supports these folks. I saw first hand what a win-win this opportunity creates. The View from the Q post also made me think of today’s facility tour as it relates to the focus on worker safety, involvement and respect that was referenced within a discussion by Paul O’Neill, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Experiences like this inspire me.

Getting to that ASQ post, Bill Troy is asking the quality community this month about having met someone whose teachings on quality influenced us.  And, my first response is that I absolutely must reference a recent Quality Digest article by Jeff Dewer related to this topic that is most excellent.  I’ve been thinking about this ever since. It was serendipitous to see the related ASQ post.

So, here it is… Steve Jobs is my biggest influence where quality is concerned.  Big surprise?! While I officially never “met” Steve, he does feel like an old friend having read through far too many books/articles/interviews and investing significant time into watching keynotes over the years.  The teachings are real.

The top five lessons I’d say have inspired me most include:

  • The quality of your work reflects who you are. Quality comes from within.
    • There’s a story about Jobs helping his dad with some kitchen cabinets. He mentions the moment his father scolds him for not putting equal quality into the back even though it could not be seen. He was influenced by and encouraged others to see that quality isn’t something that’s just cosmetic. The quality of your work in everything you do reflects who you are. It doesn’t matter if it’s seen or not.  You’ll know!
  • Never compromise on quality. 
    • Steve Jobs would not release products until they met or exceeded his expectations. There are stories of him throwing out months of R&D efforts to simplify or otherwise make something better. The Toy Story debacle is just one such story that really sets the tone.
  • Teams (and partners) are critical for success.  He demanded the best.
    • We are quick to talk about how amazing Steve Jobs was, but his role was really the visionary of it all.  Even he knew other people were better at the various components of his ideas/plans. He surrounded himself with people who were the best at what they did.  One could even say he drove them to be better than they thought they could be. This extended beyond his immediate team as well. Just think about Wendell Weeks when Jobs reached out to Corning for Gorilla Glass.  What Weeks thought would be impossible heeded to Jobs’ advice of “Don’t be afraid. You can do this.” And, they did.
  • Change is good. Adapting is required.  Anticipating is where it’s at.
    • Innovation and change were second nature to Jobs, and he had this special way of leading people to trust his direction. This is where I have people start declaring that Apple never innovated anything and that they only copied technology.  My most polite and brief reply to that is that it doesn’t matter who does it first. It’s who does it best that succeeds.
  • Quality of life matters.
    • My man Steve believed in quality of life. From trips of enlightenment to India to regular meditation and appreciation for nature, the guy notorious for being rigid and unconforming also had a profound understanding that quality comes from within and reflects our lives.

Direct quotes we all know and love include:

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”


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iHospital… A quality “unwanted” experience


I dropped my iPhone the other day and shattered the glass… First time that’s ever happened!

This really puts a wrench in my day obviously because now I’ve got to dedicate time and resources to fix an issue resulting from my utter disregard for the laws of physics.

I text the husband after a few moments of shock, and he immediately does his “fix it” thing, which he really does excel at.  He passes along a number for iHospital in South Tampa and tells me to go there instead of Apple because I’ll save time and about $100. OK, I drive over an hour and a half due to unexpected heavy interstate traffic to finally get there.

I’m even unhappier at this point.

I walk into this place, which is setup like a hospital but I didn’t realize you were supposed to wait in the chairs so I’m just standing there while the tech guy is talking to someone about his 2008 MacBook that appears to have multiple problems and is more in need of recycling than anything else.  But, instead of increased aggravation on my part, my unhappiness quickly fades away because I’m watching this guy put some real love into his conversation and willingness to help this guy out.  His patience (and honesty) was unparalleled in the service industry that I experience on a daily basis, so I can’t help but be enamored by this.

It didn’t take long for my turn to approach the counter of shame with my tattered device, and my expectation was that now I’d have to fill out a bunch of paperwork and be stuck sitting there all day like some kind of auto repair experience. In marketing, we sometimes refer to this as an “unwanted” service, equivalent to the enthusiasm one receives from making pre-death arrangements or shopping around for life insurance. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this place…

This guy not only knew a lot about everything Apple, but he was nice and quick and just super easy to deal with.  They told me the phone would be ready in an hour, and it was.  It could have been sooner, but I decided I needed to use the time wisely and hit the mall while I was on that side of town… So much for that $100 that we saved from avoiding the Apple Store.  But, was it worth it? Totally… For all that I love Apple, the retail experience is chaotic and scheduling is a pain.  iHospital was just awesome.  So, it’s at least worth a mention.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. ~ Jerry Gregoire

Good service is good business. ~ Siebel Ad

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. ~ Chip Bell

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get. ~ Nelson Boswell

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Maintaining quality & excellence in the long-term


I enjoyed the case study on Corning.  Of course, Corning first hit my radar when I learned of how Steve Jobs got them going with Gorilla Glass.  Isaacson mentions it in the bio, but the article below gives an OK summary as well.

Jobs described [to Corning Glass’ CEO, Wendell Weeks] the type of glass Apply wanted for the iPhone, and Weeks told him that Corning had developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what they dubbed “gorilla glass.” It was incredibly strong, but it had never found a market, so Corning quit making it … [Jobs] said he wanted as much gorilla glass as Corning could make within six months. “We don’t have the capacity,” Weeks replied. “None of our plants make the glass now.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. This stunned Weeks, who was good-humored and confident but not used to Job’s reality distortion field. He tired to explain that a false sense of confidence would not overcome engineering challenges, but that was a premise Jobs had repeated shown he didn’t accept. He stared at Weeks unblinkingly. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.”

As Weeks retold this story, he shook his head in astonishment. “We did it in under six months,” he said. “We produced a glass that had never been made.”

What Was Steve Job’s Secret?

As an organization, Corning seems to have mastered cautious innovation.  Their success seems to lie in the ability to provide as much support as possible in creating the right corporate culture, and then stepping aside and letting positive things happen.  If you really look at it, they have done the exact opposite of what Kodak and Blackberry (Formerly RIM) did.  And, we know how that has worked out.

Paul Borawski wants to know this month how companies can maintain quality and excellence in the long-term. If we agree it’s a journey, not a destination, how do we succeed in staying on the right path?

Corning has done well.  Again, it’s a great case study worth the read.

But, look at Apple too and I think the recipe is there and consistent:

Create a culture of quality and excellence and be active with support.  Everyone must own it and act in a manner that is consistent.

Hire the right people and support autonomy.  When the right people have autonomy, innovation happens.

Considering both short and long-term results in decision making focuses on the journey while keeping an eye out for the destination.  An understanding of the perspective for both and taking a course of action consistent with objectives will ground all efforts. Involving cross-departmental teams really provides perspective here.

Frequent evaluation of both the destination and journey status allows organizations to be pliable and make necessary continuous improvements that require less resources when discovered and adjusted as quickly as possible.

Always listen to the external environment and consider opportunities for improvement and/or innovation.

Fayol wasn’t wrong: Planning, Organizing, Leading & Control (Management is key to success)

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation” ~Peter Drucker 

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4 things Apple can teach us about public relations…


Public relations can be awesome… when it’s good. It’s considered the most credible form of promotion and can dramatically impact consumer perceptions.  But, it can also be negative… and, the way an organization handles the negative can be a make or break situation.

Apple is smart. U.S. consumers started getting word of conditions at Foxconn some time ago when the suicides started and we’ve followed the story through the media as they have taken us to the origins of our shiny toys and shown us what we already know. But, the media hasn’t left Apple alone, even though they are only one client of many when it comes to products manufactured by the hundreds of thousands people that call Foxconn their employer.

Organizations can learn a lot by how Apple has handled this particular situation…

1) Be proactive – Rather than go silent like Carnival Corp. recently did with the recent crash in Italy, Apple has been proactive with social audits from the beginning and disclosed their supplier information for the first time.  While Apple does not own Foxconn, they have spent a pretty penny sending in auditors to assess and apply corrective action where necessary.  Let’s keep in mind that they can’t force Foxconn to do anything.  Working together improves safety and general labor conditions, without job loss or shipment delays.

2) Don’t play the blame game – Rather than calling out the media regarding their obvious bios or even trying to otherwise turn the focus to the many other electronics companies that use Foxconn, Apple has taken the high road and has been forethcomig with activities and actions.  Remember Ford v Firestone? With both parties blaming each other, consumers ended up blaming both.

3) Do something no one else has – Apple paid $250k to be the first electronics company to join the Fair Labor Association.  And, they are now in the process of funding 3rd party auditors to assess the conditions at the factory.  So far, there have been only glowing reports.  Straight from the Nike playbook, it works.

4) Show compassion – Make sure top executives communicate their support for addressing and resolving the issues.  Consumers can be very forgiving if they really believe you’re sorry.  Tim Cook has come out on several occasions and demonstrated his support and compassion for the labor conditions at factories making Apple products.

Apple continues to exceed stockholder expectations and remains one of the most respected brands throughout the world.  They’re doing something right.


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My Apple realization…


It’s ~10:15am and the mall opened only moments earlier.  I note that the parking lot is unusually empty.

I need a cable.  I’m told I need a VGA adapter cable to project my presentation materials at HCC via my MacBook Pro.  I checked online but couldn’t figure out exactly what I needed and thought a quick trip to the Apple store would mean instant satisfication for next week’s classes.

I’m an Apple fan… I talk about Apple a lot.

But, I’ve never purchased anything from the Apple store.  To my advantage, I married an early adopter (smart guy) that researches, purchases, sets up and maintains all of my fun electronic goodies. He’s amazing at this… so, I’ve never purchased anything at the Apple store even though I own many of their products and speak of them often.

My experience at the Apple store has me thinking…

Although the mall just opened and the parking lot was seemingly empty, I found the Apple store to be beaming with eager consumers ready to hand over their credit cards in exchange for the latest and greatest shiny gadgets.

I just want a cable, so I head over with my 3yr old daughter and ask the guy in the blue shirt standing near the end of the store.  He’s holding an iPad and quickly looks up to nonverbally inquire about what it is I want.  He tells me quite simply that this area is the “technical area” and someone would assist me soon.

I stand there.

I stand there some more, with my 3yr old getting anxious in the stroller.  She had been promised a carousel ride and wasn’t happy about the unexpected stop.

I start listening and hear all about the wonder of Apple products and how much they improve our lives by their seemingly limitless capabilities and shininess.  They are pretty.  The herd thinks so as well.  It’s written all over their faces.  For these sales people, it must be like shooting fish in a barrel.

I smile.

I stand there some more.

It’s 10:45am.  I’m not smiling anymore.

I visually check the accessory shelf to determine if I can just make a quick choice, but I don’t see anything referencing “VGA”.   I do notice some pretty cool iPhone cases though.

It’s 10:50am and I pull over a guy in a blue shirt as he’s heading to the “technical area.” The guy with the clipboard had been standing there the whole time, not oblivious to my increased impatience.  He has an important job though… protecting the “technical area.”

The guy I flag down helps me out but finally walks me over to an iPad conveniently docked by a MacBook Pro.  He continues to talk of the “magic of Apple” in that I only need to select something on the iPad to be in a queue for an associate.  I’m confused and somewhat shocked that I had failed to notice any cash registers before.  OK…

It seems that if I want to “buy” this cable I now have in my hand, I need to wait for an associate using this “magic” system of no cash registers.

It’s 11am.  I flag a lady down in a blue shirt and ask if I could just make a quick purchase of the cable.  She says she doesn’t have the equipiment but will return in a moment.

The nice lady returns several minutes later and asks me for my name and other information.  I indicate again that I would just like to “buy” the cable and be gone.  My 3yr old was now obviously ready to escape the confines of the stroller and was only moments away from ripping the store apart.  These gadgets were of no interest to her since we have them at home.

I’m told that I won’t receive a receipt without providing the requested information.  I’m OK with this and am released from the store with the $29 cable to proceed with my day.  It’s 11:10am.

Time for the carousel…

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