Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, after months of dogged reporting and research, recently put together a story called "Inside Apple." Appropriate, seeing as he goes at length to reveal Apple's cultural core; This is a company for whom failure isn't an option.
Apple enjoys hit product (iPod) after hit product (iPhone) after hit product (iPad). So what happens when something fails? Well, to give you an idea, this is what happened to the MobileMe seam after the spectacular failure that was MobileMe's launch in 2008:
According to a participant in the meeting, Jobs walked in, clad in his trademark black mock turtleneck and blue jeans, clasped his hands together and asked a simple question: "Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?" Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, "So why the fuck doesn't it do that?"
For the next half-hour Jobs berated the group. "You've tarnished Apple's reputation," he told them. "You should hate each other for having let each other down."
In a sense, Jobs is hoping to place the weight of Apple and Apple's success and reputation on each employee's shoulder. The whole company is basically built on that sort of clear accountability. They even have a term so everyone knows who's responsible for what: 'DRI' which stands for "Directly Responsible Individual". Furthering Jobs desire to hold people accountable is a story Jobs always tells newly minted VPS about the difference between a janitor and a VP:
The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. "When you're the janitor," Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, "reasons matter." He continues: "Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering." That "Rubicon," he has said, "is crossed when you become a VP."
It's a really great read to see how Apple runs their company—like how its still so startup-like, how there's a top 100 'clique', how it remains nimble, how its documenting case studies about big decisions Apple has made to teach future employees and so, so much more. The whole report is in the May 23, 2011 issue of Fortune. If you already subscribe to the mag you can download it to your iPad for free, if not it's $4.99 for the issue. [iTunes via Fortune]