The latest Apple product announcement event had people around the globe guessing and speculating about what was to come. The announcement came and went, leaving us with new apps, two new phones, and an updated platform with loads of new features. While most of what was released had already been leaked out by various tech sites, there was still a lot of hype leading up to the event. Apple’s product domination has leveled out of late, but their effort into continuous improvement and innovation has not slowed a bit.
Which leads us to our question, is Apple Lean?
While Apple doesn’t claim to be a Lean organization we can certainly see some characteristics of a Lean culture in their thinking. Since the release of the very first iPod, their attention to detail and emphasis on eliminating waste from the customer experience has given Lean practitioners everywhere a reason to drool. Apple has forever changed the music, cell phone and computer industries, but lets look at some specifics that have had Lean written all over them.
Packaging The Apple Way
For those purchasing an Apple device for the first time, it is quite the surprise to see your new product in such a small, yet elegant package. However, it’s all a part of the process that Apple believes in. For some, the packaging is an afterthought, for Apple it’s just as important as the product itself. In fact, Apple has numerous patents just on their packaging alone.
For Apple, the packaging is more than a way to deliver their products to their customers. It’s about aesthetics, function and a welcoming to a new tech adventure like never before. Apple has a true dedication to sweating the small stuff and it shows in their packaging. There is no clutter, no unused space and its attractive to look at. I can’t tell you where any of my old cell phone boxes or computer boxes are (probably in a landfill far far away), but I can tell you right where my iPhone and MacBook boxes are.
Like many Lean concepts, Apple’s packaging is focused on enhancing the customer experience from the moment they put their hands on it. There’s a reason Apple went to the extent of developing literally hundreds of iPod box prototypes just to determine which one would provide the customer with the best emotional experience, upon opening their new iPod for the first time.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
The Apple Store
When the first Apple Store opened its doors in one of the most expensive retail properties in the country in 2001, it was seen by some business insiders as a huge mistake. At the time, Gateway stores were failing left and right and the market seemed doomed for a retail outlet dedicated to one product line. Three years later though, Apple stores were averaging 5,400 visitors per week and produced $1.2 billion in revenue in 2004, breaking the current retail record at the time. Today, there are over 300 Apple stores with an average annual revenue of over $34 million!
The Apple store has done much more than be a source of revenue for the brand. One visit to the clean, clutter free, hands-on store experience and you understand the store is about promoting an image and reinforcing the culture that Apple has built. Even organizations that have practiced Lean for years still struggle with this aspect. Creating value for your customer takes creativity and dedication. The Apple store not only adds value to their customers experience, but does so in a manner that is Lean in nature — even if they don’t claim so.
The latest Apple innovation should increase efficiency dramatically for iPhone users. I know for me at least, unlocking my phone is a hassle. Swiping and inputting a sequence of numbers to unlock my phone every time I need it gets old, real fast. However, what choice do you have? With the amount of information stored on our phones these days, it would be identity suicide not to have some form of screen lock.
With the new iPhone 5S, unlocking your phone will be easier, faster and extremely secure with the new Touch ID fingerprint scanning feature. By simply placing your finger on the home button your phone will unlock, making it the most efficient way to unlock a smart phone. They’ve even made it so your fingerprint can approve purchases from the iTunes Store — no more passwords when downloading apps or music!
Take a Bite Out
If you haven’t already read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, I highly recommend it as not only a personal read for entertainment, but also as a way to look at your own Lean methods. Inside the Apple walls are a constant demand for perfection. Whether it’s work flow, design concepts, or the constant desire to provide the most aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced product on the market, Apple is continuously looking to improve something.
Just because Apple doesn’t claim to be a Lean organization doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from them. Their ability to eliminate waste from both work flow and the customer experience has resulted in one of the most successful companies in history.