January 05, 2009, 1:33 PM — The World of Macintosh, filled with more people with more fanaticism than World of Warcraft, is all abuzz (and atwitter and ablogging) about MacWorld. Why this year more than most? Because this is MacWorld's swan song, since Apple says they will no longer put on this annual January show. Even worse, Steve Jobs won't address the pilgrims, er, attendees, so the WOM is full of speculation Steve may retire. They can't imagine Apple without Steve Jobs. Can you imagine your company without you or other critical employees? Can your customers?
Ignoring the horde of AppleNuts, and there are seemingly millions, the idea of Steve Jobs leaving Apple makes many watchers nervous for Apple. Many feel only Steve can lead Apple. While a nice testament to Steve's charisma, this may be an indictment of his leadership. If no one can imagine Apple After Steve, we can certainly say Steve hasn't properly planned for all contingencies of management. After all, everyone can be hit by that proverbial truck at any time.
What about your business? I'm not trying to be morbid about your demise, but rather asking if functions in your company are run by employees doing their own thing, or employees following the job descriptions and processes put in place by management. If you can't imagine a job being done properly without the person in that slot now staying in that slot, you have a business problem to address.
If this description of the non-replaceable employee describes you, start taking action to make it easier to replace yourself. Why? You can't get promoted if no one else knows how do to your job. If you're the only IT person in your small company, you'll pass up better opportunities elsewhere out of a sense of loyalty to your current business and to avoid leaving a disaster in your wake.
A sense of loyalty to your employer is wonderful. A sense of being stuck means your management hasn't done their job. Worse, it means they rely on you to react to problems rather than using planning and foresight to avoid those problems. With planning and foresight, and a good set of defined processes, someone else can step in and do your job. This makes it easier on you and much easier on your company.
Emulate Steve Jobs for his vision, his sales and communications skills, and his drive for quality. Don't emulate his need to be the one and only face of Apple. If Steve steps in front of that proverbial truck, he would want Apple to continue without him. That requires planning, foresight, and defined job processes.