Adam Lashinsky: Directly Responsible Individuals | Summary and Q&A

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June 15, 2012
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Stanford eCorner
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Adam Lashinsky: Directly Responsible Individuals

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Summary

In this video, the concept of Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) at Apple is discussed. The speaker talks about how Apple's use of DRIs creates a culture of accountability and responsibility within the company. Additionally, it is mentioned how Apple's organizational structure and approach to project management allows them to behave like a startup when necessary.

Questions & Answers

Q: What does DRI stand for at Apple?

The DRI at Apple stands for the directly responsible individual. It is the one person who is responsible for getting a specific action item done.

Q: How does Apple create a culture of accountability and responsibility?

Apple creates a culture of accountability and responsibility through the use of DRIs. In meetings, there is a list of items on the agenda with a name next to each action item. This name represents the DRI, the person solely responsible for completing that task. This approach ensures that there is a clear point of accountability for each action item.

Q: How is Apple's organizational structure different from other companies?

Apple is not a divisionalized company like many others. They don't have general managers running specific domains or divisions. Instead, people at Apple perform various functions across the company. For example, there is one profit and loss statement for the entire company managed by the Chief Financial Officer, rather than individual divisions having their own P&L statements.

Q: How does Apple maintain a startup-like mentality despite its size?

Despite being a large company with nearly 28,000 non-retail employees, Apple has managed to maintain a startup-like mentality when appropriate. They achieve this by creating small project teams and giving them autonomy to operate as if they were in a small entity. These teams are placed in specific rooms and are allowed to work on new projects without the constraints and baggage of the larger organization.

Q: Why is Apple's use of DRIs controversial in a company of its size?

The use of DRIs as a business concept at Apple is considered controversial because it places extreme responsibility on one individual for each action item. In most companies, decision-making and responsibility are often shared among multiple individuals or managed by executive management teams. However, Apple's approach ensures that there is a clear point of ownership for each task, leading to faster and more efficient execution.

Q: How does Apple's approach to project management benefit the company?

Apple's approach to project management allows them to be more agile and adaptable, similar to how startups operate. By creating small project teams and giving them the freedom to work autonomously, Apple can foster innovation and fresh thinking without being burdened by the larger organization. This approach allows them to tackle new projects with a sense of urgency and creativity, leading to successful outcomes.

Q: How does Apple's lack of divisionalization affect its operations?

Unlike most companies that have separate divisions with their own management teams, Apple operates with a more unified structure. This means that decisions and functional areas are not siloed, and people at Apple perform various functions across the company. This approach enables collaboration and cross-functional synergies, leading to a more integrated and cohesive operation.

Q: What role does the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) play in Apple's organizational structure?

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Apple is responsible for managing the overall profit and loss statement for the entire company. Unlike other companies, where divisional or departmental heads may have their own P&L statements, Apple maintains a centralized approach to financial management. This ensures alignment and a holistic view of the company's financial performance.

Q: How does Apple's focus on accountability impact its employees?

Apple's emphasis on accountability creates a sense of ownership and responsibility among its employees. With a clearly defined DRI for each action item, employees understand their roles and know who to approach for specific tasks. This promotes efficiency, reduces ambiguity, and fosters a culture of accountability throughout the organization.

Q: How does Apple's culture contribute to its success?

Apple's culture, characterized by accountability and responsibility, plays a significant role in the company's success. By having clearly defined roles and a focus on accountability, Apple ensures that tasks are completed efficiently and effectively. This level of precision and responsibility permeates every aspect of the company, contributing to its reputation for excellence and innovation.

Takeaways

Apple's use of Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs) has created a culture of accountability and responsibility within the organization. By assigning one person as the DRI for each action item, Apple ensures clear ownership and faster execution. Additionally, Apple's unique organizational structure and approach to project management enable them to maintain a startup-like mindset when necessary. This fosters innovation and allows for efficient collaboration across functions and projects, contributing to the company's overall success.

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