Collaboration: Important Enough to Hire and Fire Over?

Interesting news bit yesterday from Apple with some executive level leadership changes. Scott Forstall, Senior VP for iOS Software, has been shown the door and his responsibilities have been redistributed to other execs. John Gruber does a solid job summarizing the situation over at Daring Fireball. Apple’s press release frames it as “changes to increase collaboration”. An interesting way to put it. Particularly in light of Forstall’s long track record with the company. His work with Steve Jobs dates back to NeXT in the early 90’s and he has been in charge of developing iOS from the very beginning. iOS has come a long way since its debut in 2007. It’s dramatically impacted the mobile phone industry and also shifted Apple’s business tremendously along the way. The bottom line is that under Forstall’s leadership, Apple released an amazing product and amassed an amazing amount of cash because of it.

So why was Forstall pushed out? Of course the details are thin, but the signs point strongly to his ability (and lack thereof) to work with others on the executive team. He had become an increasingly polarizing and abrasive figure within the company. To the point that he and Jony Ive (Senior VP of Design) wouldn’t even sit in the same room for meetings. In short, he had become an obstacle to collaboration.

After reading Steve Jobs’ biography, and hearing about how hard he was to work with and the ways he could be downright mean to coworkers, I’ve wondered how the “new” Apple will choose to define itself. And now we get a glimpse of where they’re trying to go. Even at Apple, collaboration is treated as a cornerstone to innovation. To the point that even stellar performance doesn’t trump an inability / unwillingness to work collaboratively with the team.

Today’s question then is how seriously are you taking collaboration in your organization? Is it worth hiring and firing over? Or are you tolerating certain people who have set themselves up as roadblocks? That attitude doesn’t go unnoticed throughout the rest of the company and it directly impacts its ability to work together towards innovation. Take a moment today to look for ways you can encourage collaboration among your teams. The results will be well worth the effort.