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It’s been a While

May 19, 2013

Wow, my last post was in February.  The reason being is that things were in a bit of flux.  The company I worked at had a huge restructuring that not only involved personnel, but involved our business model.  Before the restructuring we were consumer focused and marketing lead the business.

Our CEO moved into a new position within the larger organization (our parent company) and we got a new CEO who had a completely different vision for the business.  His opinion is that we need to be more sales and customer focused versus marketing and consumer focused.

Control of the P&L was given to our Regional Vice Presidents of which there are 12.   All decisions regarding the product (including packaging), pricing and even promotion were given to the RVPs.  The marketing department was rendered a service organization and has no authority to lead the business at all.  Even projects that I was in the process of managing had to change as I could no longer lead them without getting approval from so many people because our RVPs would delegate decision making to their subordinates.

One conference call that I was running on Mondays went from 15 people to 50 because that many people had to get involved.  The project I was managing was running like a well-oiled machine and then became a Sisyphean task because no one could agree in the aggregate or maybe one region wouldn’t agree with another so we couldn’t move forward.  It was especially acute in situations where one region saw my brand in one light and another region had a different opinion.

Meetings and conversations became endless lines.  One step forward, three steps backward.  There was no management structure in terms of decision making as our upper management would let the regions make decisions so every single decision became a series of circular conversations.

The role of marketing became this nebulous concept.  Many of us had “manager” or “director” in our titles yet what were we “managing” or “directing” if a decision we made could be usurped if a region didn’t agree?  Then, the projects we were given became insulting and downright stupid.

For example, our executive team wasn’t getting answers from our RVPs regarding questions on strategy.  So instead of telling these guys to provide the information they asked the marketing team to “interview” the RVPs and get the answers.  Then, we were to present them at a big meeting.  The conversations were awkward and the information was vague.  One RVP even said to me “Who are you to ask me these questions?”  One question we were to get answered was “What is the vision for 2015?”   One RVP told a manager “I refuse to provide this answer until I feel like it.”  That’s how it was presented, no lie.

Then, I was assigned a similar project except it had to do with pricing at a big account.  Some of the regions were going against the strategy adopted by the Key Account team and I was to speak to them and find out why and whether they would change it.  Obviously, most of the regions had answers like “That’s our strategy” and “That’s how we’re going to proceed; we are not changing it.”  Then, when I would provide the information to the Key Account Team they got angry with me rather than speak to them directly.  It was really weird.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the new philosophy that our executive team was espousing.  “Leading without authority.”  What exactly is that?  How does one lead without any authority?  I’ve seen some articles on it and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.  You mean to tell me that Bill Gates is wrong?  That Steve Jobs was wrong?  I’m a big fan of military history and military strategy.  You mean to tell me that generals like Leonidas, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great led without authority?  Seriously?  Please provide research that proves that “leadership without authority” is more effective than leadership WITH authority.  Given the above comments on how my projects were affected by the change in organization structure I don’t see how this concept works.

I basically felt like a secretary on that show “Mad Men” where I met with people carrying a pen and notebook and said “What can I help you with, Mr. RVP?”  It was insulting to my education, intelligence and experience.  So I quit.  I found another company in a different industry, not food, but still CPG and am in the process of getting oriented.  I’ll keep you updated on my progress, but I am enjoying the overall experience.

I actually have authority and there is structure to the business.  Also, the team likes to make fast decisions they don’t dilly dally on things and want to move forward.  I like it.  We’ll see how it goes .

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