Steve Jobs was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
If that passage has a familiar ring it is taken directly from the opening lines of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Watching a movie version of the Dickens classic immediately before reading the latest episode in Apple’s long track record of disdain for humanity in pursuit of staggering short term financial success is striking. But if there was hope for the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge surely there must be hope for Tim Cook and Apple.
“ ‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob ,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence , were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’ ”
Those words cannot help but bring to mind the words of Jon Miller and Mike Wroblewski when they wrote “Creating a Kaizen Culture”: “A kaizen culture not only must be adaptive, but it also must have a built-in moral compass, a tendency to take the direction that increases greater good in the long term.”
Dickens’ words sound much like an 1846 version of Bob Chapman’s words: “Step inside any one of our 100 locations around the globe and you’ll feel it: a culture of care, compassion and human connection. Our commitment to our people-first culture runs deep and has inspired a leadership model that places a priority on improving the lives of the people who make our business possible.”
If Jacob Marley can come back from the grave at Christmas to alert Scrooge to the greater issues in the business of life, why can’t Steve Jobs come back from the grave and give Tim Cook the same heads up?
Without such intervention, the poverty and abuse not only described but shown in depressing imagery in the BBC video will continue in a manner that makes Scrooge look downright benevolent in his treatment of Bob Cratchit by comparison.
Oh yes – A Christmas Carol is a story of lean cultural transformation. No doubt about it. Scrooge is the epitome of a manager chasing cheap labor in pursuit of immediate wealth with no regard for the long term interests of any of the stakeholders – the business model pursued by Apple and most of the rest of the big multi-nationals. Tim Cook is said to be personally worth upwards of $400 million, while responding with the modern PR department equivalent of ‘bah humbug’ to BBC’s video report of 12 year old kids working in the most wretched and dangerous of mining conditions to provide tin to make iPhones.
Yet somewhere in Cook and Jobs’ pasts there must have been a Fezziwig. Recall the Christmas party Fezziwig threw for a young Scrooge and the employees:
“ ‘A small matter,’ said the Ghost, ‘to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.’
‘Small!’ echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said, ‘Why! Is it not ? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?’
‘It isn’t that,’ said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self.
‘It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy ; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.’ ”
Scrooge doubled Bob Cratchit’s salary upon realizing the truth of Jacob Marley and Bob Chapman’s words – that it is about lot more than money. Imagine if Apple were to double the wages of everyone involved in making iPhones – an additional $2.48 in the cost of the phone. Life changing for the people involved and little more than a rounding error for Apple. Perhaps old Scrooge even figured out what Toyota knows – that respect for humanity is, in fact, the key to making even more money than Tim Cook can imagine.
Perhaps it is just fanciful wishing brought on by the spirit of the holidays, but Christmas is the time for miracles and the ghosts of Steve Jobs, and Christmases past, present and to come just might visit Tim Cook this year. At the very least he just might choose to take a good, soul searching look at the BBC video.
“[Apple's senior vice president of operations Jeff] Williams said he ‘[knows] of no other company doing as much as Apple does’ to ensure safe working conditions, investigate complaints and fix problems with transparency in suppliers’ operations.” In fact, there are tens of thousands of them – lean, principles-driven companies. Such companies are not hard to find if you really want to see them.
Perhaps the ghost of Christmas present will take Jeff and Tim to see a few, and to see that Fezziwig was a great manager; and Marley was right; and Toyota is right; and Bob Chapman is right; and so many lean companies are right – “Mankind is my business“.