The Mysterious Org Chart   

This is me. You will recognize me by the stack of books that I carry everywhere I go. Oh, and also by my signature red hair. This is the story about how I became a titan of industry.

It all began one day when I was feeling quite entrepreneurial. I saw a problem that in my mind needed a solution; I had an idea about how it could be resolved; and I had all the right skills to do it. Well, that last part isn’t exactly true, but you know, if it’s in a book then I’m good to go.

My motto is: if someone else has done it and I can read about it, how hard can it be?

So I did what many of us would do in this situation.

I started a business.

And you know what comes next.  Incorporation! At that moment I was on my way to creating my business empire and I had made the first entry in my company’s org chart. Now I never really thought very much about the organisational chart. I was just a start-up company.  Org charts are for large corporations with lots of people, right? Well maybe not.

The Founder Incorporates

Under the rules of incorporation I was required to have a Board of Directors. The founder, me, got herself together and “elected” me to the board. I guess that made me the Board Chair. Who knew?

As the founder though, I was delighted to have such competent “people” on the board protecting my interests. Here’s what the org chart looked like on Day 1 of my new business venture. We were on our way.

The Founder Becomes a Shareholder

The first order of business was to acquire investors so that we could buy some equipment and hire some people. The founder – remember me – threw some money into the kitty. Friends and family, eager to help me realize my dream, tossed in some additional cash in exchange for a small percentage of the company. They just knew that it was a sure bet that we would all become millionaires in short order. Or in other words – it was nice to dream.

In my mind though I was thinking: How could we fail? I had a brilliant idea that would make us all rich.

So the org chart had now changed slightly. The founder was joined by other owners of the business, called shareholders. The Board of Directors – as owners themselves and representatives of the shareholders, was responsible for protecting the owners’ investments. No one suggested that we might want one of the new owners to join the board.

I was competent, right? I knew what I was doing, right? I had a vision for the business, right?

And so I remained as the sole guardian of our collective fates.

Do you see the problem looming on the horizon? And then it got so much worse.

Our First Hire

The Board of Directors – again, just me – decided that the first hire should be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). All great companies had one, and it made the business sound so legitimate and credible. And we needed a boss to get things done of course. So we put a call out for a CEO. I really wanted to be the CEO and so I campaigned hard with the board to be selected from the hordes of people vying for the position.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. There was no call and therefore no hordes. Actually, it never even occurred to me that I would not be the one to climb into the big chair and then crown myself queen of the company. Who else was there? Weren’t the founders always the CEOs?

Nonetheless, the Board of Directors – me – was unanimously overjoyed by my appointment. They had chosen well. The shareholders’ investments were secure.

The org chart was really taking shape. The weird thing is that I am not totally sure that I realized at the time that the CEO holds a paid management position and is therefore an employee. I definitely did not think about the fact that the CEO reports to the Board of Directors. How goofy would that have been – reporting to myself? See the problem?

My First Tasks as the CEO

My first task as the newly appointed CEO should have been to work with the board on setting the corporate identity – you know that silly stuff around the company’s purpose and its values. Was it? Nope.

Okay then the first task should have been to hear from the board about the shareholder’s vision for the company. You know, getting a sense of the founder’s goals and long-term objectives.  The board – me – had never thought about such mundane things so would not have been able to offer constructive context for the business. As for the founder – again me – she had nothing of value to offer here either.

Okay, then my first task should have been to begin developing a leadership team – the C-suite executives. And did I do this? Nope, not this either.  

Just to make things perfectly clear. Here I was wearing my brand new CEO hat and I wasn’t doing any of the things that CEOs are supposed to do.

  • Create organisational clarity
  • Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
  • Communicate the identity and company direction
  • Build human systems to reinforce organisational clarity

But I wasn’t that kind of CEO. That stuff is for big companies. I was a start-up. We had to do things differently. I didn’t have time for all that useless theoretical stuff. That would come later, when we were bigger. I had “work” to do. 

And where was the board? Were they making sure that I was doing my job as CEO, thereby protecting the shareholder value? No. As a matter of fact that’s part of the reason I took this gig. I just wanted to be my own boss and I knew that this Board of Directors would leave me alone to do whatever I wanted to do.

So what did I do? I did the obvious thing. We needed something to sell didn’t we?  Isn’t that what companies do – sell stuff? I got to work on developing our first product. I became our first programmer.

And program I did. I really went to town designing and creating that first product. It was going to be wonderful. Oh I did some other stuff too. I hired another programmer to help me. That was simple enough; I just got the name of a guy from my husband, called him for an interview and hired him on the spot. I also had to buy stuff, pay the rent and do payroll so I had to do a little bookkeeping as well.

And then someone told me that I could get an R&D grant from IRAP. I wrote the proposal and won! We started our research immediately and got to work making decisions that would impact our product and our customers for years to come.

Here’s what our latest org chart looked like. It probably looks similar to every start-up in the beginning. There is no need for all those executive positions when we’re small so we skip right over that row – the chief executives of operations, finance, technology and human resources. It’s the front line that gets the work done, right?

And the CEO – the founder – does most of the work. This made sense to me. It probably makes perfect sense to you too. We don’t need all that bureaucracy. We just have to get the business off the ground first.

By the way, do you see a glaring omission on the org chart? No? Well, it is kind of hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a hint. Who’s doing the marketing? Well the answer is no one. We didn’t need anyone until we had our product done and ready to go to market. And that was by far our biggest mistake. But that is a gruesome tale for another day.

So what should my org chart have looked like? It should have looked like this.

And what difference would it have made you ask? Isn’t the outcome exactly the same? Perhaps, but what would have changed is the way that I would have been thinking about the business. If my first hire would have been someone to fill an executive role – or two- we would have started developing a process to allow us to scale. And if I had realized that I was actually doing all of the executive roles – even if I didn’t realize it – I would have started thinking about the roles and responsibilities of these positions. This would have changed my mindset. Of course my Chief Operations Officer would have had to be able to program. But he also would have had to be a planner and have the ability to eventually manage a team.

A simple change in the way I thought about the business I was building and the types of people I needed to help me would have changed the fate of the company and improved the results for the shareholders.

As it was, I became the company’s greatest asset and its greatest liability.

This is TransforMana’s current org chart. Each of the members of the executive team is defining the roles and responsibilities for their staff. Each is developing process so we can hire others to do the jobs eventually. And we know how to do this because we are also doing the job.  

Lastly, we have an advisory board because everyone on the Board of Directors is also doing the work of the company. We need fresh eyes to temper our craziness. As the CEO, I report to the board and am guided by Valerie, who is guided by the advisors. This time we will succeed!

We believe in you. Gung Ho Friends!