The head of the senior management team should be a customer. We are calling this part time and largely external role the Chief Reality Officer.
This has resulted in organisations becoming inward looking and failing to focus on delighting the customer. Organisations become focused on performance and competitiveness, rather than leadership. Growth becomes a function of revenue rather than a function of increased customer delight, potentially with a broader range of primary customers.
However, when a corporation becomes large enough, the roles traditionally associated with a CEO are usually shared by the senior executives anyway, what has become known in some circles as the C-Suite. Liaison with the Board, strategic and business plans and performance reviews are usually joint efforts in these corporations.
Leadership models now have shared responsibilities. So what exactly is the job description of a CEO or MD now? It seems as though the person whose role and responsibility least adds value to an organisation is a CEO. Their value seems to be mostly about identifying one person to just "be responsible" and is an outdated notion in the era where corporations are too complex for one person to know and be responsible for everything.
The head of the senior management team should be a customer. Inspired by Steve Denning’s work in Radical Management, who better to guide you towards “delighting the customer” than a loyal and experienced customer.
The new role, which we’re calling Chief Reality Officer until someone much better at titles than we are comes up with a better one, will be part time and will consist of two major functions:
1) Attending the meetings of the C-Suite or Senior Executive Team and asking the question “how is your proposal/performance resulting in delighting me (potentially alos attending Board meetings)
2) Speaking to other customers
By moving away from being in the office fulltime and by holding in person, phone or e-communication with other customers, this role will stop corporations becoming internally focused and provide a reality to the phrase “customer focus” that is desperately needed in many organisations.
All of the other traditional roles of the CEO can just as easily be undertaken by the other senior managers. Indeed, instead of having one controlling influence over the company, the influence will be shared. Those holding senior positions will become more motivated and have greater freedom to implement innovations in their own fields of expertise.
Having as their “leader” someone who is actually external to the day to day operations of the company will also add a broader environmental and experiential base for the company.
Customers would have a clear voice and would be actively contacted by the most senior person in the organisation, as that is the only part of their role outside of the executive meetings.
Senior managers would be able to continue in roles that best utilise their expertise and passion, without having to water themselves down to become a more generalist CEO.
The Board would have access to broader and more expert views, through dealing directly with senior managers and the "external" Chief Reality Officer.
Nobody could possibly doubt the value "delighting the customer" or "customer driven" when there is a customer appointed to the most senior post in the organisation. And the senior management would have to answer directly to customers.
Control would be spread throughout the organisation, allowing for the development of high performance teams.
It also needs acceptance that the people who create the organisation include the customers and other key stakeholders.
The next step is to create an organisational structure based not on traditional roles and hierarchies, but on the shared values, vision, strategy, environment and capabilities. In many organisations, a structure that was properly aligned to these aspects of an organisation would look very different, and would encourage external input into management.
We would also need to find an organisation focused on delighting the customer, willing to find ways to implement Steve Denning's Radical Management, and to go this one step further.
It was inspired by the work Steve Denning has done over more than a decade, and in particular his recent work on Radical Management.