Why does a company create a new position?
Several reasons, in order of most mission-focused (and most frequent) to least:
- To provide more formal and senior oversight to a critical area
- To accommodate an executive’s strength or weakness
- To retain an executive (e.g., match a prior role)
- To move an executive off the critical path of the company’s operations
- To honor an executive
Which of these might apply in this situation?
1. Nope. Design was already a formal area, and Jony Ive was already in charge.
2. Nope. Some of Ive’s comments to Stephen Fry might appear to support this (i.e., that the move accommodates Ive’s design strength by freeing him from administrative and management work). But, in fact, as Senior Vice President of Design, he was already able to pick and choose how he applied his time and talent. If this was truly about reducing time spent in meetings, performance reviews, and resource planning, it wouldn’t require a promotion to “Chief” anything.
3. Nope. Not an issue.
4. Likely, in my view. For the same reasons that Seth Weintraub of 9to5mac speculates about: that Ive probably wants to spend more time with family. Ive’s promotion makes for a smoother transition. Important when you’re the world’s biggest company, and when your stock is particularly sensitive to news.
5. Likely, in my view. If you read Tim Cook’s memo, it’s not about citing new information (accomplishments) as the promotion drivers. It’s about rewarding Ive with the title that matches the influence he’s had all along. It’s an acknowledgment; an honor. And he uses general language that, while in the present tense, also sounds commemorative. In fact, this is a strong indication that this “memo” was really meant for public consumption. And by “public”, I mean “investors”.
But between Cook’s memo and Fry’s article, talk about the future is glaringly absent.
But wait, doesn’t Tim Cook’s memo also say that Jony Ive will now focus “entirely on current design projects, new ideas and future initiatives”? Yes.
But between Cook’s memo and Fry’s article, talk about the future is glaringly absent. In Fry’s piece, Ive only went so far as to inform him about helping with the store re-design and the campus.
Let me state this more clearly: Ive, to-date a product-critical executive has been promoted into a more senior and impactful role, and the discussion about his future is limited to stores and work spaces. (To be clear, the stores are absolutely critical to Apple’s success and, arguably, in need of a meaningful re-design. Vital work. Interesting work. Odds that it makes the best use of Ive’s time and talent? Low, I would say.)
Ive, to-date a product-critical executive has been promoted into a more senior and impactful role, and the discussion about his future is limited to stores and work spaces. […] a sign […] that his future contributions, while of some importance, probably won’t be on the critical path to shipping a product.
Granted, no one expects Apple to name projects and specify details but, if Ive was going to stay meaningfully involved with products, you’d expect some additional language and emphasis in that regard. It’s a sign, in my view, that his future contributions while of some importance, probably won’t be on the critical path to shipping a product.
So, to repeat: it appears that Ive is gently stepping aside, being duly honored by Tim Cook, and reserving the right to make an impact here or there, on the project and level of his choosing. If this — and, to emphasize — it’s obviously speculative — if this is true, it’s certainly an immensely well-earned, well-timed taper to an incredibly-impactful and inspirational career.
If [his stepping aside] is true, it’s certainly an immensely well-earned, well-timed taper to an incredibly-impactful and inspirational career.