Why Apple’s Tim Cook Was Only Half-Right in His Recent Executive Firings

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman examines recent executive firings by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Last week, Wartzman notes, Cook “gave two members of his senior management team the boot: Scott Forstall, who was in charge of mobile software, and John Browett, who just six months ago took over Apple’s retail operations.”

Wartzman asserts that Peter Drucker “would have concluded that Cook’s actions were, in the end, only half-right: He would have been in favor of firing Forstall, but he would have given Browett another shot.”

The reason: Forstall, who was “widely seen as unwilling to cooperate with other Apple executives,” threatened what Drucker called “the spirit of the organization.” And that, Wartzman says, was “an intolerable situation.”

But while Browett, a former Dixons Retail executive, had his struggles winning over staff and fitting in with Apple’s culture, Wartzman maintains that Cook should have worked harder to find a new role for him where he “could be expected to perform better.”

“The only thing proven by a person’s not performing in a given assignment is that management has made a mistake” by putting him or her there to begin with, Drucker wrote. “It may mean that someone excellent at running an existing operation has been miscast as an innovator and entrepreneur. Or it may mean the opposite: that the person whose strength lies in doing new and different things has been miscast to head a continuing, well-established and highly routinized operation.”