Too many Chiefs and too few Injun’s?

Too many Chiefs and too few Injun’s?


I found this note in my Evernote after attending the MIT-CIO event. For IT professionals I recommend attending this event alternate years (not much changes year to year I think) if not for anything else but to hear Andrew McAfee, one of the more entertaining and brilliant academics I have met. Anyway among the topics for discussion was the developing relationship paradigm between Chief Information Officers and Chief Marketing Officers and the race for resources between them. One speaker commented that this is becoming an even more important relationship than the one with the CFO.

So this set me thinking of how many Chief’s are there in the C-Suite these days that have something to do with the digitization revolution. In addition to the Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Marketing Officer you now have designations like Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Integration Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, Chief Innovation Officer etc. The truth of the matter is that usually in most organizations only the CEO, the CFO, GC and business unit heads are officers in a legal sense. And Chief implies that there are officers under the Chiefs. So none of these mushrooming new titles are officers or chief’s in the true sense.

Designation inflation and proliferation has been going on for some time. Role clarity as we learnt in business school is a predictor of success. With Chief designations proliferating, what worries me is whether organizations can manage the intersecting responsibilities. It isn’t clear to me how the overlap between these roles can be handled in an organizationally efficient way. Also is this trend a manifestation of the shortcomings in defining a digital vision by the existing roles? Are these roles emerging because CIOs are not stepping up to the plate and defining a comprehensive digital vision for the corporation?

The other question of course is whether we need so many chiefs or should organizations look to develop talent and delegate more to the people down the food chain who are in the trenches and wrestling with the issues of major change that is happening under the hood in IT systems and processes. Wouldn’t organizations benefit more by really looking to add the best talent they can find at the front lines and maximize the impact? After all vision without execution remains just a dream of potential never realized! Love to hear the opinions of others!

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