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Who’s the Boss?

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I work in the pharmaceutical industry. In our business the function of Quality Assurance is mandated by the federal regulations, although the QA pros often get a raw deal in corporate life. On one of the boards I occasionally follow someone posted the question, “Can the Quality Head become the COO/CEO?”.

Most people don’t have the faintest idea of what the Chief Executive really does all day. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work closely with a number of CEOs, and to watch what they do and how they do it. Accordingly, my response went something like this:

The incumbent will be an experienced professional with a well-rounded perspective. This person will understand how the various functions operate and how they fit together in a well run company. This person will have a track record of success, innovation, and influence across multiple business functions and (hopefully) multiple companies. They will not only have exceptional hard-skills in finance, science, decision-making, and leadership, but they will also have exceptional “soft” skills in dealing with people. They listen aggressively (thanks Tom Peters) and are adept at connecting the dots across disparate data sets. The Chief defines, creates, and maintains the corporate culture.  The COO/CEO will know how to raise money, know how to conduct M&A’s, know how to manage analysts, know how to identify, acquire, and retain talent; create a vision, execute strategy, negotiate a deal, close and divest non-performing units, and how to work the media. This includes television, newspapers, analysts, and social media. The COO/CEO is expected to tweet and blog. For larger organizations the big-boss should also lead industry-wide initiatives and participate with local, state, and federal governments in matters of public policy related to their industry. The successful COO/CEO probably speaks 2 or more languages and has experience working as an ex-pat. They are humble but confident; assertive yet gracious.

Find a Quality Head that can do all that and you just found your next CEO.

Do less

June 20, 2012 4 comments

Some years ago we sat in a conference room listening to a division president talk about the downturn in the economy, competition from other companies, and shareholder expectations about earnings. This division president told us we were going to have to get used to doing more with less. Now to my ears this sounded like, “you’re going to have to work harder”. With two kids under the age of three, the whole notion of working harder than I already was didn’t go over too well. I opined that really we ought to consider doing less.

The idea of doing more with less isn’t even a clever way of saying you’re going to have to work harder. But “work harder” dammit, seems like the solution of last resort, not first.

One of my best players ever, was a punk-rocker named Clarke. We were discussing career aspirations one day and Clarke looked me straight in the eye and said, “Al; work is for chumps”. He was right; work for the sake of work IS for chumps. Any and all work must add value of some sort. This is the single acid test of worth: If the task doesn’t add some sort of value, then its purpose must be challenged. Work that doesn’t stand up to this challenge must be stopped.

There is another way to look at this. The call to “do more with less” is really an invitation to get better results with the same net resources. The only way to do this is change the game. Stop putting up with meaningless work. Change the processes that suck the life out of you. When you find that you really are doing less, then you’ll know you’re doing it right.

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