What if everything we thought we knew about selling Enterprise Business Technology was wrong?

Sample Post

CEOs have ultimate responsibility for the work of everybody else in their institution. But they also have work of their own — and the study of management has so far paid little attention to it. It is the same work, whether the organization is a business enterprise, a nonprofit, a church, a school or university, a government agency; and whether it is large or small, world-wide or purely local. And it is work only CEOs can do, but also work which CEOs must do.

In any organization, regardless of its mission, the CEO is the link between the Inside, i.e., “the organization,” and the Outside — society, the economy, technology, markets, customers, the media, public opinion. Inside, there are only costs. Results are only on the outside. Indeed the modern organization (beginning with the Jesuit Order in 1536) was expressly created to have results on the outside, that is, to make a difference in its society or its economy.

The CEO’s Tasks

To define the meaningful Outside of the organization is the CEO’s first task. The definition is anything but easy, let alone obvious. For a particular bank, for instance, is the meaningful Outside the local market for commercial loans? Is it the national market for mutual funds? Or is it major industrial companies and their short-term credit needs? All three of these “outsides” deal with money and credit. And one cannot tell from the bank’s published accounts, e.g., its balance sheet, on which of these “outsides” it concentrates. Each of them is a different business and requires a different organization, different people, different competencies and different definitions of results. Even the very biggest bank is unlikely to be a leader in all these “outsides.” For which of these to concentrate on is a highly risky decision and one very hard to change or reverse. Only the CEO can make it. But also the CEO must make it. It is the first task of the CEO.

The second specific task of the CEO is to think through what information regarding the Outside is meaningful and needed for the organization, and then to work on getting it in usable form. Organized information has grown tremendously in the last hundred years. But the growth has been mainly in Inside information, e.g., in accounting. The computer has further accentuated this inside focus. As regards the Outside there has been an enormous growth in data — beginning with Herbert Hoover in the 1920s (to whose work as secretary of commerce we largely owe the data on GNP, on productivity, and on standard of living). But few CEOs, whether in business, in nonprofits, or in government agencies have yet organized these data into systematic information for their own work.