Steve Jobs was renowned for his leadership and drive so when the extent of his illness was finally revealed publicly several years ago, the share price dropped.
A successful business can lose momentum when just one key employee makes a move. This single cog can have a far reaching effect if others don't understand the business or have the drive and skills to take hold of the reins.
Early in my career, the company I worked for lost a key employee who had amassed an incredible amount of knowledge about the business during their time there. When raising concerns about their departure with my manager about how it would impact on my team, the manager replied not to worry, it would be like taking a hand out of a bucket of sand. Yes, initially there would be a gap there, but gradually the sand around the space would fill in naturally and it would be as though the hand had never been there.
Other people can be likened to taking a hand out of a bucket of water – their skills wouldn't be missed in the least – and is cleverly encapsulated by Guy Kawasaki in this poem.
When considering the future of a team, management need to understand their competitors and the skills they possess. You also need to be on top of industry moves, where the talent lies and how you plan to keep talent within your four walls. To continue to grow, improve and maintain the edge you need a solid succession planning for the rising stars and the veterans in the field.
If a business is forward thinking, it is more likely to foster a good working environment that values people and team work so that when someone leaves, it will be acknowledged that they performed a valuable role and the team around them will work with their replacement to naturally cover any gaps and continue on.
So after the sad loss of Steve Jobs, with solid succession planning and forward thinking, working at Apple seems like working in a bucket of sand.