Life in the C – Lane will surely make you lose your mind

By Brian Lucas

“Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind.  Life in the fast lane, everything all the time.” – the Eagles

Just like the title of the Eagles classic tune, “Life in the fast lane”, life at the C level today can make you crazy.  Regardless of company size, succeeding at the C level is far more difficult than it ever was.  The degree of this difficulty can most readily be seen in the fact that 64% of C level executives in North American Fortune 1000 companies do not want to be a CEO[1].  That’s double the figure from 2001 with almost three fourths of the current CEOs thinking about quitting their jobs.  Turnover amongst all levels of top management has increased[2].  This is now the new norm[3].

This is despite the fact that the average CEO compensation is 209 times greater than the average employee’s pay.  That is up from just 18 to 1 in 1965[4].  For many of the rest of the C level, the days of privilege and perks are a thing of the past.  The hours are now long and personal time and home life is often lost in the incessant demands of the job.  The C level in a traditionally structured organization is now being forced to perform at a pace that is not sustainable.  Reporting requirements are now dramatically increased and hold the CEO accountable for the validity of these reports[5].

Boards of directors are also holding CEOs to higher performance standards.  This seems to fly in the face of golden parachutes and rewards for non-performance, but it is understandable in terms of the percentage of CEO failures (see my article “Why CEOs Fail in Today’s Agile Business Environment”).   CEOs have considerably less time to succeed.  They now have less than 18 months to prove themselves[6].

This has translated into increased pressure throughout the C level.  Even back as far back as 2003, vice presidents of marketing in high tech firms began experiencing a 75% turnover[7].  The chief marketing officer now lasts less than 2 years[8].  This type of pressure will continue to mount with no end in sight.  Where is this pressure coming from?  Well… it’s coming from us actually, that is to say the consumer.  We are all consumers in one way or another.  Since the internet revolution, it is now much easier and requires much less capital to start a business.  We also now live in a global economy, again thanks primarily to the internet.  A consumer has almost unlimited choice and with the ease of the internet’s search capability; they usually gravitate to cheaper, quicker and sometimes even better.  After all, the knowledge of a better product or service is only a click away.  Never before was there a need to be more effective and efficient in an organization[9].  The burning question in every C level person’s mind is how to bring this about.

Too often, C level executives turn to technology to solve this problem.  Since the last decade US companies have wasted at least $65 billion on unneeded[10] and $75 billion on failed[11] technology projects.  Technology can, of course, be part of the solution.  The real answer however is people and organization structure.  If you are a member of the C level you could ask yourself, “How is someone else doing what we are doing better because it is putting pressure on us?”  The question you should ask yourself though is, “What does the customer want and really need now and what will they need and want in the future?”

To survive, you need to answer the first question to thrive you need to answer the second one.  Knowing a customer’s requirements goes beyond importance.  US corporations lose almost $100 billion annually[12] through poor customer requirements and another $1.25 trillion in potential markets unrealized.  Not only must you know these requirements, but you have to fulfill the need as effectively and efficiently as possible.  If your solution is tighter command and control; your days are unfortunately numbered.

In the past and still seen today in most large corporations, companies are organized under a very hierarchic command and control model.  This is where most of the thinking happens at the top and execution happens at the bottom.  When products and services were simple this worked.  However it required long value chains, ridged processes, and highly regimented thinking.  This invariably leads to slow product and service delivery at high expense.  Unfortunately, today products and services are complex and require knowledge workers to be a large part of the solution.  To be effective, these people have to have a considerable freedom of operation and must be able to express themselves and their ideas without fear of reprisal or resistance in the structure.

What’s needed is an organization structure that nurtures self-directed workers and fosters a team mentality with an innate focus on the customer’s needs and the ability to change rapidly as the market dictates.  This means a change in strategic management!  The C level must unite to formulate this change and work towards a new organization structure.  It’s a matter of not only their survival, but the enterprise’s as well.

Strategic management’s history is varied.  Alfred Chandler, promoted an all-encompassing strategy for all the various aspects of management in his ground breaking work, “Strategy and Structure” and later on his Pulitzer Prize winning work, “The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business in 1977.  Peter Drucker the phenomenally accurate futurist emphasized the importance of management by objectives (MBO) and predicting the importance of knowledge workers and intellectual capital.  Philip Selznick defined the matching of organization internal aspects with the external environment known as SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats).

Strategic management has a direct effect on organization structure.  Organization structure has, in fact, been affected by the various strategies of strategic management since the early days of capitalism and the product/service oriented strategy.  We are now in the learning and agile strategy phase where businesses must change their structure fluidly in response to ever changing customer needs and market pressures.  The need to precede market demands with organizational adaptability, which can anticipate those demands and meet them at the beginning of a cycle, is the difference between enterprise success or business failure[13].  This agility requires that you shape your organizational structure (and business in general) in a lattice fashion.  W. L. Gore wrote eloquently about adaptability in his groundbreaking work where he defined a lattice organization as follows:

A lattice organization is one that involves direct transactions, self-commitment, natural leadership, and lacks assigned or assumed authority. . . Every successful organization has a lattice organization that underlies the façade of authoritarian hierarchy.  It is through these lattice organizations that things get done, and most of us delight in going around the formal procedures and doing things the straightforward and easy way.

This is a radical departure from the traditional hierarchic organization structure and line of authority.  It presents the following fundamental change in philosophy:

  • No fixed or assigned authority
  • Sponsors (mentors) not bosses
  • Natural leadership defined by followership
  • Person-to-person communication
  • Objectives set by those who must make things happen
  • Tasks and functions organized through commitments

One way of accomplishing this is with a bifurcated organization structure with a functionally aligned workforce pool and a product and service organization where work is actually done.  Assigning work by product or initiative gives the advantage of promoting team thinking and teamwork.  The focus is on the success of the product or initiative and therefore the organization; rather than the individual.  Managers of record act as workforce fulfillment agents for the Work Structure. They manage a pool of resources, conduct periodic reviews and deal with personnel issues.  They build performance plans based on job descriptions derived from the organization plan driven by an amalgamation of needs identified by the product and service managers, behaviors defined in the vision, and individual goals created in career path planning.  This is 50% of the review rating; the other 50% comes from team achievements against goals as recorded by their team facilitators. The functional organization matrix provides economy of scale advantages and proficiency of expertise while its hierarchical organization promotes clear lines of authority and performance rewarding. Individual employees report to this structure governing behavior, teams report to the Work Structure governing work assignments.

The chart below shows a simple version of this structure.

This is not a matrix structure; it is actually the evolution of a hybrid structure that is one step closer to a true latticed web structure or virtual corporation.  The hierarchy is the financial and sponsor structure and more fixed.  This gives stability. The work structure is highly flexible and environmentally responsive.  The key concept is that individual employees report to one structure governing behavior.  Teams report to another structure governing work.  It does not have the limitation of being able to support only a few products or initiatives.  It does require dual planning with the hierarchy supporting the product structure.  The functional organizational structure exits as a servitor to the work related one.

This might seem complicated, but it is not.  While it is true that you can have two or even more managers, none of their directions should be conflicting since they govern differing areas.  As far as priorities are concerned, the various product or service managers settle any potential conflicts outside of the team setting.  As a rule if you are doing agile you should be focusing on one initiative at a time anyway.  Your hierarchy manager is a service manager that works to see that sufficient human resources are available to meet the needs of the product and service managers.  If you are following scrum, the scrum master’s role is to facilitate and remove obstacles, not manage the release or iteration.

As you can see the structure is firm where solidity is needed and fluid where responsiveness is required and can interface with third parties and vendors in an organic fashion.  In short, it is all things to all people.  If this sounds too good to be true, like Bill Gore says you will find some form of this structure working at times very surreptitiously in all successful companies.  The extent which this virtual organization identity has to “buck the system” determines how effective it is and usually the company’s success.  Moving to this type of self-learning and agile structure is not easy.

It does not however, have to be done all at once.  It can be done through increments as long as the new entity that is being created has the full support of everyone concerned.  It’s truly amazing just how Machiavellian the old guard can be about protecting their turf regardless of who it hurts or even if it will bring down the whole company. If you want to end your pain at the C level you need to implement this kind of change or the pain will unfortunately only get worse.  Like the Borg say in Star Trek The Next Generation, “Resistance is futile”.   Till next time – Keep Agile.


[1] According to Burson-Marsteller

[2] According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas

[3] According to Booz Allen Hamilton

[4] According to the Economic Policy Institute

[5] As required by the Sarbanes-Oxley act

[6] From Burson-Marsteller’s Building CEO CapitalTM survey conducted with RoperASW.

[7] According to CRMGuru.com reports

[8] According to executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart

[9] See Peter Drucker

[10] According to Morgan Stanley

[11] According to the Gartner Group

[12] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology

[13] For more on this see my post “The imperative of having an agile organization structure” on my blog Keeping Agile

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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98 Responses to Life in the C – Lane will surely make you lose your mind

  1. Larry says:

    Brian: Good article! A mutual friend told me about your blog and I started reading it. Your articles are thoughtful and have depth not found in most blogs. As a CEO I would appreciate if you could expand on how you would implement what you are proposing as an agile organization structure in an existing organization. All the best! Keep posting! :Larry

    • Brian says:

      Larry – I was starting to work on a webinar on how to reorganize a traditional organization structure into a hybrid latice one, but I got side tracked by an assignment. Keep the comments coming. The more people ask for the webinar the sooner I will be able to turn to it. -Brian

  2. MikeH says:

    As a product manager this is something I have struggled with for the last 4 years. Just to keep afloat with all the issues takes 60+ hours a week. But the real downside is that things are always getting worse and not better. We have significant personnel turnover both voluntary and involuntary. We are constantly trying to find better people to fill our open positions. Particularly at our C – level. Now, this article has really helped me see our company in a new light. It really isn’t that the people are inadequate; it is the organization structure that isn’t working. I have heard others mention this before though they did not state it as clearly as you have here or made as good of a case. Thanks for posting this. I will check out your other posts. Mike

    • Brian says:

      Thanks Mike for becoming a reader! Good luck with your organizational change effort and keep me posted on its results. -Brian

  3. Philip says:

    This is one of the finest analyses I have seen on the problems at the executive management level and far more readable than ANY other I have read. It is very well written, factual and to the point. Furthermore, it offers a solution to these problems and explains it in plain English. Kudos to the author! You should write a book! Please continue to post such great articles! P. Brown

    • Brian says:

      Philip – thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately I do not get as much time to write as I would like. I really get very little time during work to blog, less than two hours a week. I will continue to post as I can find time from my full normal work schedule.

      • Sally says:

        This is so disappointing to hear Brian! I cannot believe that with all your writing talent that your company only allows you to spend a couple of hours a week blogging. I am really floored by that attitude so much of an organizations name and reputation depends upon the internet presence they have and you are such a powerful resource it seems a shame you can’t dedicate more time to this activity. -Sally

    • Lak says:

      Brian I too am in much disappointment for hearing that you have so little time to carry on this work of your blog. Please continue to do so you are much appreciated by all of us. This analysis as Philip says is very, very fine. I would have much enjoyment in reading any book that you would be writing.

  4. sally says:

    Brian, yet another great post on agile an organizational life! This will be very helpful in my current effort. This is helping me change minds about the benefits of an agile organization. You have articulated the pain of life at the C level and driven home the message that just hard work isn’t the answer. What a marvelous writer you are! Please keep posting! Sally

    • Brian says:

      Thanks Sally! I recognize you as a regular reader. It means everything to a writer like myself to have someone like you read my work on a frequent basis and feel strongly enough to comment on it. Thank you again for your continued support. -Brian

      • Sally says:

        It is a pleasure to read your blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer the comments not enough blog authors do. -Sally

  5. Edward Smith says:

    Brian,
    I am completely blown away by this second post you yours. Everyone on the C level should read it. I am sending it to all of my clients. This identifies the problems and defines the environment so clearly of life at the C level today it should be a part of all C level job descriptions. This is a very power support of the post that I commented on previously The Imperative of Having an Agile Organization Structure. Its amazing with as much as you have to say and as good of a writer that you are that you have not published more. You should become more active in that area with your obvious skills.
    Edward Smith
    Business Consultant

    • Brian says:

      Edward – Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I am trying to publish more. It is just an issue of time. I appreciate you forwarding my post to your clients. Unfortunately, many CEOs and other C level personnel (particularly those in the most trouble) will dismiss it since it will go against their philosophy of authoritative control. Please keep in touch! -Brian

  6. J. Thomas says:

    This is smack dead on target. You have captured in a nutshell why I left the Fortune 500 rat-race to be the CEO of my own company. For many years I tried without success to implement the kinds of changes you are talking about hear in companies I worked for without success. It seemed that in their shortsightedness there was no motivation for them to change. Everyone thought they knew it all as the management team sat in catered meetings congratulating themselves on how much they were making even when the company was going belly up. I am not sure ANY of the large companies can change which is why I left and started my own. You have given them the formula; I doubt however that any will have the courage to apply it. Great work Brian! I am looking forward to reading the rest of your blog’s posts.

    • Brian says:

      Congratulations Mr. Thomas on having the courage to follow your dream and make it successful. Please email me your company name so I can follow its success and feel free to email me with any questions you might have. -Brian

  7. The Baron says:

    Another great article and analysis, Brian! I just wish that the C-level execs in my company would adopt a true agile method. I’m afraid that our organizational arteries are hardening at an ever-increasing pace, and that we’ll reach a point where we will not be able to react successfully to changes in the environment.

  8. KarenS says:

    Super post!!! Great exploration of the problem in a short treatise and the solution you outline makes sense and follows what I have heard from others I follow regularly. I would love to hear you speak on this topic. Do you do any webinars or speak at events? Can you share your schedule?

  9. CharleneV says:

    This is a well written article, as far as it goes, but I can tell you as a women who has struggled to climb the corporate ladder, if you think it is difficult for men; it is twice as hard for women today at the C – level. There is so much finger pointing going on and much of it is directed at the person who is not in the click which is often a women. Your article does not address the inequalities that exist for women at the corporate level and I would like to know how you feel agile addresses or should address this issue.

    • Brian says:

      Charlene – Your point is well taken! If a company wants to be agile – work and reward MUST flow naturally based on ability and EVERYONE must have equal opportunity. If there is any consideration of office politics or gender or nepotism or anything else; the organization is NOT agile! As likeminded individuals band together to form new enterprises and leave all the nonsense of preconceived notions and prejudices behind; they will operate efficiently and out produce, in products and services, the dinosaur’s with the baggage, that will die a painful death from the lack of customers. The winds of change are already blowing. –Brian

  10. Mahesh says:

    Brian – I have been offered a position of CTO in another company that appears to have much turnover in the executive management. This position offers a 33% pay increase for me. Reading your article makes me think that this might not be as good of an opportunity that they made it sound. Can you offer any advice?

    • Brian says:

      Mahesh I shall respond to you off line since I would have to know more particulars. I used to work with a Mahesh are you the same person?

    • Jane.W says:

      Mahesh I do not know what you and Brian talked about offline, but I bet if you contacted him he responded fully. He seems to be an unbelievably generous and considerate person. My 2 cents of advice would be to take it and gain more experience and perspective even if you only do so for a year. I have taken positions in companies that I knew were going to be very tactical and not long term. I did my very best while I was there and always left on good terms. It furthered my career. That’s what is called stepping stones.

  11. Tony says:

    Brian this is exactly what it is like! You have cut through the fog of many complex analysis and nailed the problem. Better still you have identified the solution in clear terms and simple language. Very well done! I am following your blog with great interest.

  12. Lou says:

    This is from my point of view as a CEO 100% correct. Unfortunately, it took me a number of years of struggle to learn this lesson and too many at the C-level ignore this truth. You have the beginnings of a very powerful blog. Your writing skills are excellent. Your knowledge is broad and impressive. You have a wonderfully entertaining way of telling your story. You should seriously consider dedicating more of your time to this activity, not many have the talent you have.

  13. Dinesh says:

    Brian please let me start by saying that your work is impressive! You are remarkably well informed and have a clarity of expression and an entertaining style that makes your writing a pleasure to read. I have been thinking much about this subject. Your post has helped clarify everything in my mind. We at executive management level have been so focused on our individual careers that we have lost sight of what was happening in management overall. While we worked and struggled in our own world – the environment changed. We were unaware of the true nature of this revolution and the impact it was having. We did not change with the times. You have explained the situation as clearly and succinctly as anyone I know. The most important part of your work is the second half where you tell us how we have to structure our organizations. The challenges that we face are daunting. Many of my fellow executives and CEOs will not make the transition to the organization and structure you outline. Businesses will fail. Managers who have lived a life of control will find themselves in a situation beyond their control. I am committed to the survival of my company and our people. This country has been very, very good to me and my family. It is my obligation to think beyond my own career and livelihood and leave a sustainable legacy that will benefit others and bring in a new era of prosperity. Thank you for this post! I hope others recognize its message and act on its wisdom! with utmost respect: Dinesh

  14. Chris says:

    This is fantastic Brian, very informative and well done. I am going to read the rest of your blog. If it is anything like this, I will become a regular follower. Are you on Facebook or Twitter? I think I found you on LinkedIn and sent you an invite to connect.

    • Brian says:

      No Chris I do not do social media. That was me on Linked In and I have accepted your invitation to connect as I am sure you have seen. Please take the time to read the rest of the blog and let me know if you like it.

      • Cauthrin says:

        Brian as Chris says this is fantastic. I can assure you that my of your readers are like minded with me and would like to see your writing broaden to include more aspects of business and technology, even politics and life. You are a very interesting author and must be an interesting person. It is tantalizing to get these brief glimpses into how your mind works and frustrating that we cannot find out more.

  15. M.Carlton says:

    When I read this post Brian, I was frankly impressed and I am not often impressed by a blog post. Then I scanned several other posts of yours and came back and reread this post. I noticed the amount of comments you are receiving and their nature. I took the time out to read a number of comments from a half dozen of your posts and your replies. You can tell a lot about a writer by his or her readership. You readership is obviously diverse, but has one thing in common – they mostly appear to be either elements of change or want to be elements of change. I agree with Philip, Edward, Mr. Thomas, Tony and the others about the quality of your work. It is exceptional. But it was Dinesh’s comment that struck me the most and your simple and sincere reply. You are really reaching people!!! And you appear cognizant of that effort. Apparently, you are very generous with your time in helping others. I am not sure how you manage that, but you have my respect for doing it. When I retired as a CEO 11 years ago, I left with a great deal of money and a sense of accomplishment. When I look at the state of business today, I am saddened by the self-destructive state of management. I realize that managers of my generation did not do enough to ensure the future of our companies, our employees and as Dinesh puts it so admirably our country. Your blog, this post, Dinesh’s comment and your offer to help him have spurred me to get back into business and help entrepreneurial businesses grow a new economy in a better sociological framework. I will follow your blog to help guide my efforts.
    With deepest respect,
    M. Carlton

    • Brian says:

      If I can help those who are catalysts for positive change then this blog and the effort I put into it is worthwhile. The courage to change is often found in unlikely places, sometimes it is the smallest hands that turn the wheel at the critical moment and the history of the future is rewritten. To be able to have achieved the recognition I have already received from my readership has been a greater reward than I had ever anticipated. I have the utmost respect for a person such as yourself that returns to the canvas to paint anew a better picture for the benefit of others when they have no economic inducement to do so.

  16. Jean says:

    Hey Brian, enjoyed meeting you. You are an incredibly intelligent person! Thanks for texting me this URL. I read it. It is super! I emailed it to our CEO, I’ll let you know what he thinks. Thanks again. I’ll read your other posts as well. -Jean

  17. Andrew says:

    Tremendous post! Great insight! Very concise! Mr. Lucas has truly defined the problems of executive management in corporations today. You can’t find a better blog piece! Now we all need to act on this!

  18. P.G.Woodley says:

    This post has no boundary either in country or business. It is wisdom personified for all enterprises of this age. Let all who want to be successful take heed and follow Mr. Lucas’s words for he is an oracle of much needed truth in an age of deception and prevarication.

    • Brian says:

      We live in a global economy and are begining to live in a global society. To count on the protections of a boundary for your enterprise success is a strategy of fools.

  19. LizM says:

    This is one of the best works I have ever read on the subject of the changing forces at the C Level today. By far, it is the best blog post I have read on the subject. Brian you have such a clear perspective on what has been a very complicated and confusing topic, I am amazed. Many of us at the C level are in denial about these facts and focus blame everywhere except ourselves. It is time to stop the blame game and begin the active work of reconstructing our companies to make them more responsive to the changing environment we now find ourselves in. Thank you for being a point of light in these dark and challenging times. -Liz

    • Brian says:

      Liz, blame is always destructive. Open discussion is always the basis of being agile. I will do my best to keep the light on.

  20. Timothy O’Donnel says:

    Brian if I were only a bit younger I would join Dinesh and Carlton in answering the clarion call you have raised to rebirth our great nation’s economy with the strengths it was founded on ingenuity, entrepreneurship, hard work and family values in which I include thinking about all members of your company as members of your extended family.

    • Brian says:

      Mr. O’Donnel your words are more than enough of a service and I am sure although I do not know you other than through your gentle and honest comments that your life has been a service to mankind and we are all the better for it in some meaningful way.

  21. Collins-P says:

    100% CORRECT! This is absolutely the best statement on the issues with the chief level which has run rampant in business today and rapidly self-destructing. If we do not address these issues immediately; it will only get worst. Executives need to stop blaming the economy and politics and start taking responsibility for the issues they have created with their bloated cost laden presence!

  22. Dean says:

    I seldom comment on any blog. Mr. Lucas, however, deserves every commendation he receives for his Keeping Agile site. It is well thought-out, well written, well researched and highly entertaining. This article about life at the C level is very perceptive. What I respect most about Brian is that he never poses a problem without providing a clear and logical solution. He is truly an original thinker as others have said and his blog a valuable knowledge source. Bravo!

  23. Dan Mosco says:

    Life in the C – Lane is a unique perspective on the executive management level. I can tell you as a fact that we in human resources often are on the receiving end of executive management problems from the finding of new executives at a moment’s notice to creating an exit plan that doesn’t become a contested point. This is happening with an ever greater frequency and many enterprises in all sectors are hemorrhaging managers rapidly. Brian’s article tells us not only why this is happening, but what we need to do about it. The question remains. when will all executive management have the courage to implement what Brian outlines here?

  24. Viktor says:

    The writing is on the wall. There is less room today for paper pushing bureaucratic managers that sit in all glass conference rooms having meetings while others do the actual work. Look at any company and if there management structure is a hierarchy it takes up 50% of the pyramid. Very few of those people are actually on the value add chain. They take up space, slow things down and add to the cost of products and services. If you are a CEO try firing half of your C Level and watch quality and productivity go up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. RandM says:

    This was a very informative article. Life at the C Level is tougher now than ever before. I agree with your conclusions here Brian, but I was wondering if you have any specifics as to how jobs at the C Level actually change. For example, does a CFO do what he always did and just service a new set of people? Do all the C Level jobs change or do some such as the CFO or CLO remain essentially the same while others such as CIO or CMO change radically? We are gathering ideas to reinvent our company. As the CFO, I have been heavily involved in the concepts strategy. I like the ideas you put forth here, but I was hoping you had a roadmap for achieving this. Sincerely yours, Martin.

  26. A now sane person says:

    I was losing my mind in the corporate rat race, so I got out and started my own company. The reasons identified in this post are why I left. See the writing on the wall all you who are still struggling with the insanity of office politics. The days of winning by playing that game are numbered.

  27. Mark says:

    One word – PROFOUND!

  28. Barcley-B says:

    This post has been making the rounds at our company. What I like most about it is that it is so easy to read and yet not just a stream of common knowledge like most blogs. Makes me want to pose the question what does Brian think life at the C Level will be like 10 years from now? 50 years?

  29. Joseph Lawrence says:

    This is an important article. I would even say a vital one. During my career I held positions as a CEO, COO and CFO along with a number of middle management roles. Though I am retired, I am very concerned about the direction companies are taking in filling, rewards and executing their executive management. To me it has become immoral. It has diminished the integrity of business and damaged our country. We need to regain both our moral compass and integrity. Life in the C Lane is the best expression of the problems with executive management that I have read. It deserves to be explored in a book as I believe others have suggested. I have only one recommendation I would make to its improvement. I believe the ethical questions of outrageous compensation for poor performance and ruination of employees’ lives and careers be explored. The temporary improvement of a bottom line or a stock price to take a windfall profit is no justification.

    • Brian Lucas says:

      Thank you Joseph! You speak from the heart and I feel much as you do. Many companies have lost their way by losing their faith in what they were doing. They need to find it again. Your suggestion to include ethics is a good one. Let me see what I can do on this subject.

  30. James Fitzsimmons says:

    Brian is one person who gets it and knows how to write about it. BRAVO!

  31. Poindexter says:

    What a gem! If you work at the C level this is a must read. Brian how you are able to cut through all the fog and put such complex issues into perspective WITHOUT over simplifying is incredible!!! This helped me understand my own dynamics. Thanks!!!

  32. Rhinehardt says:

    It has been my experience that the more difficult and challenging the economy is, the more office politics are practiced. I agree with this articles assessment.

  33. Everitt says:

    This would make a great breakfast or business lunch presentation. If you decide to do one please let me know.

  34. Stephan Van says:

    As a long time executive I can say with authority that Brian has it right! I have to agree with everything that he has said here and it is my inability to change things like this in my company that is leading me to take an early retirement and unfortunately pass this problem down to younger shoulders.

  35. Elen says:

    Unfortunately I must agree with Stephen. Even more unfortunately, I am too young to retire. I work for a Fortune 500 company and it is all political and very much subject to the problems and pressures Brian outlines here. I see no hope in introducing the kind of change Brian talks about as a cure either. So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  36. M. Smith says:

    This is undeniable well written and is compelling. I am not sure that it goes far enough however. The problems of a large corporation are, I believe, endemic to its size. I have seen so much politics in my time that have interfered with the basic functions of the corporation that I am no longer convinced it is a viable model. I have also read Mr. Lucas’s posts on the age of ahile management and predictions for 2013. Since so very many of my fellow executives have left the corporate world to become freelancers or entrepreneurs, many of whom were the best, I think we are witnessing the death of the large corporation.

  37. Arnold Mackey says:

    Brian thanks for posting this! It was right down the ally of what I was working on. My question is, do you have any information/statistics on the relationship to more being a more agilely managed organization and employee satisfaction particularly at the C Level? Anything that you could send my way would be a help. Thanks again!

  38. James Patten says:

    This was an amazing article Brian! Very well thought out and written! There is a lot of evidence you cite here. Are you up for a few questions on how you developed this thought?

  39. Celia Colletti says:

    This is the best expression of the problems at the executive level today in business that I have ever read. I am very impressed with your blog Brian and will take the time to read all your posts. So many other blogs just post obvious or surface level thinking. You dig deep and explain simply. That is a winning combination in anyone’s book.

  40. Preston Johnson says:

    I do agree Brian that there are problems at the C Level in most companies. I would like to say though as a CEO that we are not all ogres. Today we have such little time in a public corporation to improve the stock and the pressure from the directors is constant. So we are forced to act and at times it appears to be harsh for those who don’t understand the perspective we are faced with on a daily basis. I realize that you are not saying here all companies are bad. What I think would be fair is for you to write about those large companies that are well managed in a balanced fashion. I have enjoyed reading your blog. It shows excellent research and original thought and content. I also admire your writing ability and your ethics. I find it informative and educational. I would like to see some good news about the corporate world though.

  41. Margret Feney says:

    Brian a quick question do you see any value to they various top 10 or bottom 10 company lists? I worked for a company that was on a top 10 list one time and I can tell you flat out that working there was nothing like the wonderful experience described in the list’s write-up.

  42. Joseph J. Perigino says:

    Brian when did things go wrong at the C Level in your opinion? Did it happen all at once or gradually?

  43. Dean McPherson says:

    Colorful and well written as all your posts are Brian and… unfortunately quite true. We blame so many of our problems on the economy and government. I admit to not being happy with the government. The government is not responsible for the bad managers in our businesses or the bad management. We all are. Those who practice it and those who tolerate it. As long as my fellow executives and business owners reap high rewards for being arrogant and incompetent we should look to ourselves for the problems in the economy and not blame others. The saying, “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones” is most apt! Thanks for having the intellect and the courage to write of this.

  44. Shari says:

    Your blog is the one I follow all the time Brian – I wish you posted more and were on Facebook and Twitter. -S

  45. Brandon J. Covington says:

    I have been a consultant in IT/IS for the last 23 years and I concur with your assessment. My question is how do you see this situation evolving in the near and distant future? For example what will happen in 2013? By 2015? By 2020? And do you see the situation to be homogeneous worldwide or different here in Europe from America or Asia? Your assessments are quite extraordinary and I have come to have a great deal of respect for your opinion.

  46. Scott Hummel says:

    Super post Brian and good comment following. When are you posting again on this subject?

  47. Happy says:

    Is Google you idea of an ideal company?

  48. Kane says:

    Nice post Brian! I don’t think this will ever change, too many executives don’t have a clue what is going on in their own companies.

  49. Arguon says:

    As a general statement I would agree with this. Business is changing throughout the world and I have found many more progressive companies where this is not true. I think you should write about them as well as the downside of business life. Both sides need to be told and the good companies recognized.

  50. Jonathan J. Goldman says:

    Fascinating discourse on executive business management! I am very glad I found your blog Brian. Please keep up your most excellent work.

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