Steve Jobs Was a Lousy Project Manager

Filed under Books | Posted by PMStudent

I’m halfway through the Steve Jobs biography right now. I must admit, I didn’t really know all that much about Steve Jobs before reading this book.

I now know that among his other roles at Apple and his other companies he was definitely a project manager.

A lousy project manager.

A Culture of Fear

The picture painted in at least the first half of his biography is that of a visionary, charismatic, and extremely driven leader.

Who was also a spoiled brat.

The picture I see painted especially of Apple in the Macintosh days is that of a culture of fear. Jobs argued that by being so tough on his employees (which really meant being insufferable) he would make sure that only “A” players on his team. Maybe there’s some truth to that.

It seems the only employees that lasted at Apple in the Macintosh days were the ones who were confident and mature enough to stand up to Steve. There was even an award given out for the person of the year who is most able to stand up to hom. Now maybe there’s some to the correlation between standing up to Steve Jobs and being an “A” player for the team. But there are also a lot of a players the left the company because they didn’t want to put up with Steve.

A Steve Jobs Project Environment

These are some of the attributes that most struck me about the way that Steve and his project environments were.

Amazing Lack of Trust

It certainly seems like even the people who works close is Steve wouldn’t trust him as far as they could throw him.

Well, perhaps they could trust him to be a superhero when they needed one, but they certainly couldn’t trust him to keep promises to them.

Hogging Credit

Several times in the book stories are relayed where Steve took credit for his team’s ideas. This irks me.

Several employees interviewed for the book told?stories about how they would tell Steven about an idea that they had, and he would say it was crap.

Then a week later he would come back and say “I have this great idea” and it would be their idea he said was crap a week ago.

Micromanaged To The Max

Steve micromanaged everything and everyone as far as I could tell. And he was likely to tell you that the work that you were doing was crap.

It certainly seems to me that creativity and pride in your work was primarily about pleasing Steve.

How To Manage Projects Like Steve Jobs

If one were to write a book about how to manage projects like Steve Jobs, it would look something like this.

Step 1 – Be Steve Jobs.
Step 2 – Micromanage and bully your team until a product is produced.

If you are not Steve Jobs to begin with, this management strategy is not going work for you.

Positive Spin

If there’s one thing that I have been able to draw so far out of the book that is positive, it’s the need for project managers to be able to convey a vision to their staff.

And Jobs excelled at that.

His “reality distortion field” is legendary, but unless you have the charisma of a slick preacher and the ability to disregard reality, you are not going to be able to use the reality distortion field.

So what do you think about Steve jobs? Was he a lousy project manager or a great project manager?


[image credit:??DonkeyHotey]