Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

What do C level officers do? 14: executive team expansion, consolidation and right-sizing 3

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 10, 2015

This is my 14th posting to a series on what C level officers of a business or organization do, that specifically emerge as job requirements for the senior leadership of an organization (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 376 and following for Parts 1-13.)

I have been posting, and certainly in the past few installments to this series, on the issues of assembling an effective overall senior executive team. And in that regard, I focused on executive team growth and expansion in Part 12 and on executive team consolidation and contraction in Part 13. My goal for this posting is to round out this portion of the overall discussion of C level officers and senior executive teams, by delving into the issues of the third basic approach to team right-sizing as that applies to this context: executive team reallocation and rebalancing, where the overall senior executive head count might very well remain unchanged as team size per se is not the issue under direct consideration.

And I begin the discussion of this installment by at least briefly discussing executive team reallocation and change in the context in which this is most likely to occur:

• As a direct response to change in the business itself and in the context that it operates in, so as to keep this organization strategically and operationally effective and competitive in the face of shifting needs and priorities.

Couched that way, an obvious way to develop this topic would be to do so in terms of one or two specific change-driven scenarios (e.g. where there is perceived need to evolve a business’ senior executive team to keep it aligned with shifts in overall business goals and priorities, as for example when it seeks to address new and emerging business opportunity, or when its participation in supply chain systems becomes a defining aspect to its overall business model and as a fundamental change from what had been a more stand-alone approach.)

As a case in point of the first of those two possibilities, I would site a business like the The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) for the way that it has recurringly, and I add effectively reinvented itself, and many times since it was first founded in 1911.

The company that we now know as IBM began as a single business entity, as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR), and as the result of a merger of three older and already established businesses. At the time that this new company was founded, the word “computer” still referred to people who carried out mathematical calculations, and arithmetical hand calculations for the most part. Charles Babbage and his proposed computing machines aside, mechanical computers of any general applicability did not exist yet and electronic ones certainly did not.

CTR was a holding company, and its business components manufactured a diverse range of products, including employee time-keeping systems for tracking and managing hours worked, weighing scales, automatic meat slicers and, punched card equipment that would be used for managing data storage in what was called unit record equipment.

Several of their key product lines represented cutting edge technologies and business approaches:

• Their employee time-keeping systems represent an important example of that, as their systems proved essential to many businesses that sought to implement new and emerging scientific approaches for improving industrial efficiency in their facilities, as developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henry R. Towne and others.
• And punch cards, here citing what is undoubtedly their best known manifestation in an industrial setting: Hollerith cards, are a second such example. Hollerith cards were used to hold weave patterns in early automatic looms and their use revolutionized an entire industry.

A later incarnation of this constantly evolving, and several times renamed business enterprise moved on to enter into and then dominate the early mainframe era electronic computer industry, producing among other things the first standard build mainframe computers: IBM System/360 computers. Before that, all electronic computers were one-off and custom made.

Not to turn this posting into a history of this company, they have entered and succeeded in the smaller, desktop computer industry and then shifted out of desktop and smaller personal computers, transferring that line of business to the Lenovo Group, Ltd. They are still a major player in the supercomputer industry, and in the networked server computer industry, and they offer very high quality and very respected business consulting services among other lines of business. As of this writing, they are starting to actively move into cloud computing. But this is a huge multinational and its overall evolutionary change and growth have involved significant amounts of change at all levels on their table of organization, much of which would fit more into the growth and expansion, and consolidation and contraction models that I have been discussing for executive teams, here in this series in Parts 12 and 13. And that has held for their senior executive team itself too in how it has evolved and adapted.

So I take a different approach here, and begin with a smaller organization that seeks to operate and thrive in a fast changing industry and in fast changing markets, and as a lean and agile organization.

• Non-managerial and lower-level manager employees who work hands-on, on cutting edge and currently high demand products and services are brought in when and as needed, and as part-time or contract workers where that would make the most sense and full time and as in-house employees where that would. And this is where employee turnover would be highest and certainly when the full range of employees are considered and not just full time in-house employees who have successfully completed an initial employment probationary period.
• More senior and executive managers would in most cases be held onto longer term as they provide long-term expertise in this business and they tend to develop a deep knowledge of its history and its ways. Along with providing more senior leadership, they provide a sense of stability and continuity.
• And in a lean and agile business that is not significantly expanding, and in either operational or head-count scale, the usual pattern is to keep the overall executive team at basically the same size. So I offer this as a situation where the third model approach that I discuss here, would come into play: executive team reallocation and change.

I write here of a situation where long-term effective businesses need senior executives who are always learning and growing professionally, and who would see stagnation and a drift into irrelevancy from simply pursuing some prior period’s best practices as here-and-now business as usual – and by default.

I write a lot in this blog about innovation in an organization, and do so here in this posting too. And bringing together the three approaches to change in a senior executive team that I have been writing of here,

• Whether a business is growing into new opportunity,
• Or contracting back into its areas of core capability to bring itself back into competitive focus,
• Or simply seeking to evolve as a competitive business of the same size,
• If it seeks to be and remain innovative, then everyone there needs to always be learning and always rethinking what they simply assume and do by default.
• If the senior executives of a business stop doing this,
• And if they do not actively support the people who work under them on their lines of the table of organization in doing this,
• Then that business will drift into irrelevancy and certainly when compared to their more actively engaged and agilely, proactively advancing competitors.
• With time, any business that seeks to remain competitively relevant will have to pursue at least the third of these executive team management processes: reallocation and rebalancing, though they might very well face need for all three of these approaches, as situations arise that call for them.

I am going to discuss the executive positions of Chief Executive Officer and President in my next series installment and how they fit into the overall pattern that I have been developing through this course of this series. Then after that, I will discuss how the discussion of Parts 12 and 13 and of this posting on executive teams per se, applies to job and career development on the individual executive level. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. I also include this posting in Page 2 of my Human Resources and Personnel directory and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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