Do many Chief x Officers make an organisation more intelligent?

I stumbled on to this question when I noticed in the media that were more and more reports of Chief Officers than of the already familiar CEO (Chief Executive Officer.) I have managed to accustom myself to CFO and COO. But with Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Learning Officer, Chief Digitalisation Officer I am starting to have concerns about where this development might lead. We are now talking about the C-Suite, meaning the executive level. Not so long ago, vice presidents were flooding the carpeted floors. What will follow? Wikipedia (as of 05.05.2020) lists a good 50 CxOs. Amazingly, no Chief Project Officer. Why not actually? At least he can be found on the websites of international project management organisations. OK….

So I asked myself: What could the drivers behind this trend be? Clearly, globalisation, market dynamics, digitisation and everything else making up the VUCA world puts enormous demands on top management to keep their companies viable. To do this, you also have to be healthy. Vitamin C helps. Hmm, could it perhaps be related to the C-level? Apart from health, the C-level does not seem to be fundamentally linked to necessary expertise. Rather, it can be observed that it is still mainly about power games and the desire for control.

Thus corporate management is fragmenting into a myriad of functional areas, creating additional interfaces that have to be asserted and defended with considerable effort of communication. In essence, however, it should be about the company as a whole, about fundamental decisions about the purpose of the company and about a sustainable ability to develop. Can something like this succeed at all with all those alpha types who in a positive sense want and need to assert their insular interests – probably underpinned by target agreements ? Don‘t the measures of these CxOs lead to additional structures that create additional complexity? And what is the real impact of these different CxOs on lower management levels and employees? Can a consistent picture emerge in their minds of what they should see as the purpose of their work? No wonder that every sixth employee has resigned inwardly (Gallup 2019).

We have been talking about “learning organisations” for years and a lot. But what has been and is being learned here does not seem to me to increase the intelligence of a company. This may be one of the reasons why companies find it so difficult to cope with change, why they cannot synchronise their reaction speed with environmental changes or even drift into insolvency.

Anyone who has followed my thoughts so far will probably expect me to add my ideas for more effective corporate development. Quite rightly, and it is also close to my heart. I would like to confine myself to one principle: a tight C-level circle focuses on determining and communicating purpose and strategy. This sets decision-making premises that enable employees to make competent and goal-oriented decisions independently, but also to learn from possible mistakes. This is my idea of an intelligent organisation.

But if you hope to achieve more success with C-Suite logic, perhaps you should try a Chief Mindset Officer.

Original text: PUE
English translation: BCO


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