On July 9, 2013, CMO.com published a piece by Melissa Harans and Gayle Kesten entitled “ Nine New Chiefs Head to the C-Suite.” I only pray that this was written with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. I am not sure I have ever heard of a dumber idea. It ranks up there with all the other C-titles that have proliferated like mosquitoes on a hot and steamy summer’s afternoon.
We need more “C” level players in a company about as much as we need more trade associations. There are already more than enough, and most, like the aforesaid associations, don’t do much. But here are the 10 questions one should ask about any company thinking about, or actually adding, such titles to its executive roster before you short its stock:
1. To whom do all these new C’s report? The Chief Chief I suppose.
2. How is a CEO supposed to make sense of the disputations of the various sub-Cs? How does he/she justify their bloated paychecks? With the responsibilities for making decisions now spread amongst a veritable baseball team of C players, who gets to be the manager?
3. What are the qualifications for being such a C?
4. What is the career path of a Chief Experience Officer (or other so-called ‘Chief’)?
5. Why can't these jobs be done by non-C’s?
6. Who reports to these C’s? Do you get to be a bigger C when you have more people reporting to you?
7. How many Chiefs does it take to blow a budget? (Answer: generally one will do, but your odds of screwing up get way better the more Cs you have.)
8. Which C gets to claim responsibility for a major market success? Which takes the heat for abject failure? How do they allocate blame and kudos for the so-so performance that most companies get most of the time?
9. Is the proliferation of Chiefly titles driven by recruiters who get to charge higher fees for placing a Chief than placing a Manager or Director?
10. What, exactly, does a Chief Whatever actually do 98% of the time besides attending conferences on their chiefly subject and sitting on the board of the trade association(s) that created it?
I am hoping that I am now the butt of a very big joke and that this piece on new C-level execs was poking fun at the system big time. But, after 40+ years in this business, somehow I don’t think so.
Jerry has been at the leading edge for his entire 40+ year career. He may be the only executive in the digital arena to have created a new brand of soda pop (Mello Yello for The Coca-Cola Company) and he was the first person to conceptualize (and execute) a coffee-by-mail business (Gevalia Kaffe for Kraft Foods), and he helped transform a nascent online entertainment company into a powerful digital marketing services company that became so attractive that Yahoo! purchased it (Yoyodyne). Jerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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