Apple Inc Organizational Structure Analysis Using Four Frame model

Apple Inc Background

A well designed organizational structure is a vital prerequisite to the success of companies operating in competitive business environments. This paper focuses on the organizational structure of Apple Inc. Apple is a multinational corporation that specializes in creating consumer electronics, computer software, and commercial servers.  Four decades after its establishment, Apple has achieved numerous success in the consumer electronic industry, establishing itself as a market leader (Tasnim, 2018). Notably, the corporation’s organizational structure has largely contributed to its success by promoting rapid and practical innovation, a crucial success factor in the consumer electronic industry (Huber, Kaufmann, & Steinmann, 2017). Huber, Kaufmann, and Steinmann elucidate that Apple’s organizational structure has significantly facilitated innovation and the success of the corporation as a technological company. 

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Apple’s organizational structure has been modeled by the successive regimes of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Apple’s primary concern in relation to organizational structure is to enhance business performance through unique and inventive products (Tasnim, 2018). A mechanistic organizational structure is crucial to the achievement of the said objective. Under Jobs and Cook’s leadership, Apple has successfully established a mechanistic organizational structure, which allows leaders to be in charge of Apple’s functions and objectives due to centralized decision making and standardization of control systems (Huber, Kaufmann, & Steinmann, 2017). During Job’s era, the company extensively adopted the traditional bureaucratic organizational structure, whereby tasks were channeled downward, and accountability flowed upwards. When Cook took over from Jobs, he revised the structure to accommodate the dynamic market demands by distributing authority by dividing the organization’s operations into several subunits (Tasnim, 2018). The changes were aimed to improved Apple’s capabilities and competitive advantage, especially in product design and creativity and innovation.

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Analysis of Apple’s Structural Frame

Apple’s close view shows that the corporation currently maintains a hierarchical organizational structure, with pronounced divisional characteristics and a relatively weak functional matrix. The divisional characteristics are exhibited in its product-based groupings, such as macOS and iOS. On the other hand, the weak functional matrix entails inter-divisional collaborations, which are keen on preserving the set hierarchies (Puranam & Maciejovsky, 2017). To analyze the structure of Apple Inc., this paper utilizes the Four Frame model. The framework divides any organization into four frames, including the structural, human resource, political, and symbolic frame. The structural frame focuses on goals, structure, technology, roles, relationships, and how they are coordinated (Ahmady, Mehrpour, & Nikooravesh, 2016). Regarding Apple Inc., the best way to approach the structural frame is through analyzing responsibilities, division of labor, and hierarchies that coordinate the corporation’s diverse activities. The assessment points out three distinct divisions, namely, functional-based, product-based, and spoke-and-wheel structure.

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Function-Based Hierarchy

The top-tier leaders of Apple exhibit a function-based corporate structure. Cook is the president, and several senior vice presidents rank below him, who help him coordinate and control the organizational operations and processes (Tasnim, 2018). Apple has a senior vice president for every functional unit. It has senior vice presidents in charge of industrial design, finance, internet and software services, retail, software engineering, hardware engineering, and worldwide marketing. These individuals address business needs related to their respective functional areas; thus, oversee the detailed functioning of each department. They also serve as the chief advisors to the president (Huber, Kaufmann, & Steinmann, 2017). The CEO handles the overall business operations with management inputs from the senior vice presidents (Tasnim, 2018). However, it is worth noting that Apple maintains a weak functional matrix. According to Tasnim, a weak functional entails a hierarchical structure that allows for collaborative interactions among an organization’s various components. The top management determines the company’s goals and objectives, and the department heads have limited control and authority. The structure is aimed to help Apple maintain robust innovation and creativity in its processes and product design.

Product-Based Hierarchy

            The middle and lower management hierarchies in Apple follows the product-based leadership structure, which adopts the divisional approach. The structure mainly focuses on the various products the organization manufactures and supplies to the consumer market. The deputized managers ensure that their lines function efficiently to guarantee overall organizational success (Huber, Kaufmann, & Steinmann, 2017). There exist various product managers, ranked below the vice presidents. Specifically, Apple has a manager in charge of each of the following; iOS applications, iPad, policy and social initiatives, worldwide human resources, environment, user interface designs, communications, consumer applications, and dean and Apple University (Tasnim, 2018). The product-based organizational structure places Apple in an enhanced position to provide each product with optimum attention to ensure that they meet customers’ expectations.

Spoke-and-Wheel Hierarchy

To strike a precise balance in the overall organizational decision-making, Apple has also embraced a spoke-and-wheel organization structure. During Jobs’ regime, the president determined all administrative functions, whereby he made all the major strategic management decisions. When Cook took over, he introduced a more collaborative style to facilitate the robust employees-managers relationship. As a result, Apple’s middle management team has more autonomy; thus, its organizational structure is less rigid (Tasnim, 2018). The spoke-and-wheel complements the product and functional units within the corporation by enhancing collaboration between the various teams, consequently improving creativity and productivity. The framework also renders Apple’s structure relatively more flexible by encouraging a problem-solving culture rather than one fixed on promoting organizational functions (Ahmady, Mehrpour, & Nikooravesh, 2016). Nonetheless, the company’s top leaders reserve the mandate to address business function areas.

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Evaluation of Apple’s Organizational Structure

            The hierarchical structure utilized by Apple allows the top management to coordinate the company’s activities effectively. The Systems theory explains that whereas a well-designed organizational structure is crucial to the success of any company. However, without an effective management system that can ensure companywide information dissemination, the structure is bound to lose its effectiveness (Lai, & Huili, 2017). The model insists that a well-designed management system serves as a solid foundation for ensuring the effectiveness of an organizational structure (Ahmady, Mehrpour, & Nikooravesh, 2016). Regarding Apple’s structure, the company has emphasized establishing a well-structured management system as exhibited by the analysis section. The system allows Cook and the vice presidents to exercise a sturdy control over Apple. They have departmental heads reporting directly to them, providing crucial information essential for decision-making and strategic planning. The system also allows managers to focus on the specialized segments and, as such, can allocate resources efficiently in their respective departments.

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            The spoke-and-wheel and weak functional matrix organizational structures cemented the firm corporate control and further Apple’s primary objectives regarding innovation and creativity. The Complexity theory proposes that a combination of many actors operating as a single unit tends to exhibit enhanced creativity and produce new innovative products (Ahmady, Mehrpour, & Nikooravesh, 2016). According to the model, complex systems have the ability for adaptation and self-regulation. They also have characteristics of interdependence and connectivity (Amagoh, 2016). Cook’s changes to accommodate the weak functional matrix and spoke-and-wheel facilitated the mentioned characteristics by promoting collaboration and flexibility. The weak functional matrix allow managers to effectively channelize resources between all the functional departments. The spoke and wheel allows the managers to include employees in the decision-making process; thus, facilitating creativity and innovation. Thus, Apple’s organizational structure is well-aligned with the corporation’s objectives concerning innovativeness and creativity.

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In conclusion, the analysis and evaluation of Apple’s organizational structure show that it is well-positioned to succeed in its respective industry. The corporation maintains a hierarchical structure with three distinct divisions, namely the weak functional matrix, product-based, and spoke-and-wheel hierarchy. The three hierarchy-orientations complement each other in a manner that allows Apple to effectively coordinate and control its activities while maintaining a competitive advantage through improved creativity and innovation.

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