Sometimes I think this whole “title” thing is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Or maybe it’s just to distract the Board. Or, as my father says, “confusing motion with progress.”
This could just be a variation on the theme of CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) wanting a new title. I noted this last November when Beth Comstock, CMO at GE, asked to be considered the Chief Growth Officer because being CMO was not correct. I mentioned in that post that if Ms. Comstock would check the 1952 definition of Marketing at GE, she would understand that CMO was the correct and valuable title.
The CMO title began to gain traction about 10 years ago. Marketing professionals liked the idea because they believed that Marketing was finally going to get a seat at the table in the C-Suite. Fooled them.
Firstly, the CMO position was a revolving door. I pointed out back then that CMOs were likely created to be the scapegoat. That is, when the company had a bad period, the CEO needed to “sacrifice” someone. By using the CMO as the scapegoat, they were clearly taking action because a C-Suite member was being axed, but not anyone critical to the company. The stock would move up due to action rather than down due to losing a good person. At that time, CMO tenure was only about 18 months or so.
The next problem with the CMO title was the range of responsibility so-called CMOs might have. Some were no more than directors of advertising while others had more comprehensive responsibilities. Even so, most CMOs were equated with running the “back-end” of Marketing: Marketing Communications. As such, they were usually just CMCOs (Chief Marketing Communications Officers). Those who had more responsibility than that (as Ms. Comstock did), likely wanted a title change so they could differentiate themselves from mere CMCOs who masqueraded as CMOs.
Now we have the CGO (Chief Growth Officer). A recent article noted that LinkedIn found over 2,000 people with that title. Apparently the job title is gaining traction. But what is it? If it is simply a retitled CMO, then what? Clearly, it will not be as easy to scapegoat your CGO, but are these (CGOs) gaining responsibilities?
All that being said, if the goal of the company is to grow, how is the CEO not the CGO? Ok, perhaps the company is too large and needs to delegate some responsibilities. I can see an organizational structure that looks like this being interesting:
A CEO with four direct reports: The Chief Growth Officer, responsible for Demand Chain (marketing, sales, customer service, etc); A Chief Operations Officer, responsible for the Supply Chain (service delivery, manufacturing, engineering, etc); A Chief People Officer (responsible for talent acquisition, retention and improvement); and A Chief Financial Officer (responsible for the balance sheet). One could find several viable variations on this, but in this case the Chief Growth Officer is clearly not the CMO, but rather the person responsible for creating and keeping customers. The Chief Customer Manufacturing Officer if you will. I could get behind this position as a viable contribution, just as the other three would be.
However this is not what the Chief Growth Officer, as currently configured, does. Renaming the Chief Marketing Communications Officer something else, will not improve results or make the position more valuable. CMO is a useful position, as is CMCO, but the two are not the same and neither of them are the CGO.