mardi 1 novembre 2011

Apple vs. Google: Battle of the Management Styles

With the recent death of Steve Jobs and our previous articles concerning Google's management style, we find interesting to compare these two companies' ways to motivate their employees. 

Apple Computer is getting a lot of press these days, but the focus isn’t always on its computers, iPhone, or ubiquitous iPods. Rather, various sources have written about how Apple is run very much like a traditional top-down company. People are told what to do and then sent off to do it. If they do a bad job, they may get yelled at by the boss.

Who would have guessed?
Since reading about Apple’s old-time management style, I can’t help watching the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” TV commercials more closely to see if the cool Mac guy has bloodshot eyes from crying in his cubicle.
According to Leander Kahney, author of a recent essay in Wired magazine titled “How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong“:
“Whereas the rest of the tech industry may motivate employees with carrots, Jobs is known as an inveterate stick man. Even the most favored employee could find themselves on the receiving end of a tirade. Insiders have a term for it: the “hero-shithead roller coaster.” Says Edward Eigerman, a former Apple engineer, “More than anywhere else I’ve worked before or since, there’s a lot of concern about being fired.”
Apple’s management style seems the polar opposite from what we hear takes place at most modern tech firms, including the world’s most powerful brand, Google. Leander Kahney writes:
“Google’s engineers have unprecedented autonomy; they choose which projects they work on and whom they work with. And they are encouraged to allot 20 percent of their work week to pursuing their own software ideas. The result? Products like Gmail and Google News, which began as personal endeavors.”
Google’s management style sounds idyllic, but I bet the reality of the situation isn’t so rosy. I’m certain there are some team members no one wants to work with and a bunch of projects that need to get done that no one wants to do. I suspect there are even days when the catered meals need salt and the massage therapist’s hands are cold.
From a talent management perspective, I think the Google style may work for Google but is at the experimental stage elsewhere. It’s not yet certain such a high level of freedom leads to greater happiness among employees or a more creative and productive team. Economists would surely say that, given such freedom, team members will inevitably choose individual self interests over what’s best for their colleagues or the company.
The opposite approach, though, of beating employees with a stick, will only be endured by the employee until a better job comes along. Making matters worse, when that employee does leave, he or she will be bitter and will do all he can to hurt the company.

So which type of management do you think is the best ? 
Is it better to motivate people by letting them do what they want and have a certain autonomy or by putting them under pressure in order to reach the company's goals ?

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