Future of Executive Teams: evolution from today’s state

competitive strategy executive team FTSE 100 future exco leadership
This is the latest part of my thought experiment on the future of executive teams (ExCos). Thus far I’ve looked at the starting point in FTSE 100 ExCos, at roles that would allow them to defend their position in a Digital Economy, at roles that would enable them to create new growth and latterly at the most likely configuration of roles on the team. In this post I’m going to explore how today’s ExCo can evolve into the future.


My conclusion in terms of makeup is that the ExCo should effectively halve in size from today’s average of 10 roles to 5 in the new configuration. Today’s average ExCo consists of:
  • CEO
  • CFO
  • COO
  • CHRO
  • A Geographic Market Leader
  • 2 Market Vertical Leaders
  • CIO or Chief Digital Officer
  • General Counsel
  • CSO
Before I talk about the future positions in a fully-installed Digital Economy, I need to do some renaming. Some of you might regard this as an atypical reversion to conventionalism… but it has been pointed out (kindly) that some of this work is actually quite useful and more accessible role titles might give it more impact! To that end:
  • Ultimate Professional is now ‘Chief Professions Officer’ or CPO
  • Corporate Handyperson is now ‘Chief of Productivity’ or COP (I hate this one, but Head of Fixing abbreviates to ‘HOF’ and that isn’t serious at all)
  • Wack Chair is now ‘Long Term Scenarios Officer’ or LTSO

They still don’t quite fall off the tongue, but hey ho.The routes to these positions are quite varied. Some are simple. For example, the LTSO is a version of today’s Chief Strategy Officer. I say this because in the majority of ExCos I see, the CSO brings papers and recommendations about subjects to the table for consideration. As I will write about in another post, I don’t think that this is correct, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is how the CSO tends to be today.

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Similarly the CPO is a logical extension of the CHRO in concept, with the major difference being that the CPO is not an ‘HR professional’. The biggest issue that most companies face is that the people who are responsible for people are very rarely actually experienced in the jobs that make up the majority of activity in the enterprise. For this reason they have the level of insight of an amateur observer when it comes to developing those people – you’ll have experienced the average ‘learning and development’ experience created by HR teams. In turn, because the remit of the CHRO tends to extend to internal comms and more strategic issues as well as people-related admin that the same amateurism that pervades day-to-day people-related operations poisons other important change activities. You may take it from this that I feel HR departments need really fundamental changes to be relevant in today’s economy… which is why the CPO is really a total reinvention of the idea of people management. Ultimate Professional is someone who reached the pinnacle of their craft and is still a major force in product and service definition – a real role model for people as opposed to a glorified admin.


Chief of Productivity is an interesting one. A really good CFO or COO actually does this role today by taking the time to deep dive into the small things that hold up progress within the organisation. The main issue both have is that they have been conditioned to ‘manage’ rather than to lead by example. Thus teams of people in those departments create presentations about the areas in which productivity is being lost and instruct others to fix them, rather than actually fixing them personally. Still, the ingredients are there if one is willing to merge the business knowledge and leadership role of the COO with the practical analysis skills and system economics knowledge of the CFO. In the shorter term there is a regulatory need for a CFO too… Which makes me wonder whether CFOs should actually come from giving operations people accountancy training, rather than letting finance analysts rise to the Board.


That leaves one completely new position – Chief Design Officer. Many organisations do have this sort of person in their business today, but they are relegated to supporting functions or are at best Product Owners or CX leaders in the ‘digital’ teams. Right now I don’t see any effort being taken to design career tracks that would enable these professionals to be elevated to the leadership (well done HR!). That needs to be fixed if enough design leaders are to be available for all of the organisations that will need them. In summary then, the pathway from today to the future looks like this:

One thing you’ll have noticed in the construction of this new leadership team is that there is a dearth of operational management. That is deliberate. As I discussed way back in the first post on the topic the role of the ExCo is strategic leadership. In the next post I’ll therefore talk through how two operational management works in this conception.


…oh, and don’t forget to buy the book 😉
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