Maybe Tim Cook needs his own Tim Cook

It’s obviously a fool’s errand to suggest how Apple might manage its business better. Based on its stock price and financial performance alone, there  is no better business in the world. But it struck me today reading Tim Cook’s letter of apology about the dismal new Maps app that perhaps what he needs is his own Tim Cook.

I hadn’t realized it until checking Apple’s executive profile page that since he moved up to become CEO, after Steve Jobs, he hasn’t filled the job he used to hold – that of chief operating officer. He is, in fact, the only chief anything – the rest of his executive team are Senior Vice Presidents.

The reason Jobs originally hired Cook was to have someone around to be his operational drill sergeant. Someone who could build the corporate infrastructure which would have to grow along with Apple. Cook was an inspired choice, an ascetic workaholic, tough and detail-minded. It was Cook who built Apple’s outsourced manufacturing and supply chains in Asia, who used Apple’s cash so effectively to stockpile resources and strike the best deals with suppliers and manufacturers. He was Apple’s margin demon, a corporate engineer par excellence. He made it the Nike of technology firms.

With Cook managing these details, Jobs, as Walter Isaacson describes in his biography, could spend afternoons hanging out with his industrial designers and obsessing over Apple’s products.

But now it’s all on Cook. Unlike Jobs, he has no Cook to fall back on. Perhaps it’s time he hired one.

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