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TheStreet Open House

Apple Still Thinks Like a Start-Up

Stocks in this article: AAPL

The key to Apple's continued success and domination is to stay true to the philosophy and values of kaizen. And while I have been critical of Tim Cook for not being the spiritual and charismatic leader that Jobs was, there is one thing for certain: Cook is the epitome of a kaizen master. Jobs was both a polished showman and a kaizen master, and perhaps it's too much to expect Tim to be both. It's also not a fatal flaw, not by a long shot. Being a showman and a great team leader are not synonymous. The showman was for, well, show. What Jobs did internally was lead the Kaizen way and demonstrate his own personal brand of simplicity.

Ken Segall recently published a book about Steve Jobs and his philosophy of simple, titled Insanely Simple.

And though Ken never mentioned the words "lean" or "kaizen," the philosophy he described in his book that was part of the Jobs way, is exactly that. Segall wrote that Jobs has a manifesto of sorts, although it is not clear that it was every formally written down, because I suspect that Jobs would have viewed that as rules to follow, and too big company-like. A kaizen company doesn't need rules posted to the wall, he needs inspiration and empowerment, and this is what sets Apple apart from all others.

I have often heard within companies I consult for, when doing companywide process assessments, that they would like to be more Apple-like. But they think they can get there by going only part way, using this principle or that method. What they don't understand is that to be lean, to be like Apple, to be kaizen, is not a part-time venture; it is all or nothing. It is like a glass of sparkling spring water, clear and good. But if you put just the tiniest bit of sludge in it, perhaps only 1 part to a 100,000, then the whole glass of water is ruined. When you look at decisions to be made, and one way is kaizen and the other is not, if you choose to compromise, then you choose not to be good at some level.

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