The Steve Jobs Way - Chapter 3 - Team of Pirates

Here we talk about the way Steve Jobs thought about teams. The thought was to have small teams of size less than a hundred focused around a product. And have the team members well connected with each other so that everyone knows what the others are working on and can cooperate well bringing the various team members joint thought process to solve the problem.

The idea of a team of pirates refers to the informality of the team and the tyrant like power of the leader. There is the joke in the book, "If you are not working on Saturday, don't bother to come on Sunday." The book talks of team members work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. That would be what - 112 hours - way more than seventy hours that our own Narayana Murthy was talking about. I think it is possible. But it should not be seen in isolation. One can do hundred when you are working together like a pirate team chasing a big loot - a dream. When there is no common dream, and still worse no jolly spirit among the team and even the leader isn't inspiring, then even forty hours seems like a burden. Seventy is third degree torture. And you can't do it for abstract stuff like uplifting of the country and all. What is the connection between working for your company and country getting uplifted. It is like the king asking all the subjects to pour a pail of water into the tank. Everyone assumed others would put in the milk and they themselves put in water. That is what happens in a big entity like a country. How does one feel connected with a billion strangers. This can take us along other path ways though such as shared myth and cultural identity and things like that. In some ways that is relevant for a company too. Here too Steve Jobs tried to create that Mac team identity by having their own unique celebrations, their won T-shirts etc. But here he wanted to stick to team sizes of less than hundred where you can know each others' name. That is a genuine connection.

Clearly this agrees with the disruptive innovation concept of having separate teams focused on innovation. This would be such a small pirate team which doesn't have to go through the company bureaucracy. This makes sense. To create a big organizations full of innovation, creating various pioneers, it probably makes sense to have multiple teams functioning autonomously. Having the big company culture kind of prescribes standards not applicable to every part of business and leads to a kind of apathy.

This chapter also deals with being able to point out the leader's mistake even though he is a tyrant because the leader is a tyrant our of love for the product and not due to personal need for control. Which makes sense. Too many cooks do spoil the broth. A lot of people sharing ideas but one decision maker who listens to everyone's ideas seems the best of both worlds. Worst would be lot of decision makers but no one to listen to anyone's ideas which is what most organizations are.   


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