When I was at CCP, I blogged a lot. I was able to try out many new ideas, and my disagreement with certain decisions sparked a lot of good writing. I’ll get to why that matters in a minute.
At one point, one of the American executives hired by the Icelandic management brought in a number of cronies, and gave one the title of “Director of Communications” or something equally ridiculous. This was a new position. None of us knew we needed it. We had no idea what it was supposed to contribute. It would have been an inexplicable move were it not clearly to make room for an executive minion.
When you hire for a new role with a leadership title, you better be damn sure of two things. First thing: hire the right person. This person needs to share similar values to the rest of your org. They are going to define a department and make a mark across the company. It’s incredibly difficult to predict success here, so I won’t try (much easier to predict failure!).
The second consideration is less commonly discussed, but equally vital: the new role and its importance must be widely understood outside of management. If it’s not — if the first thing people say is “why do we need person X?” — you have one of two problems, equally bad.
The first problem may be that your senior management is disconnected from the rest of the company. Management has a clear and pressing (and, I will assume, legitimate) need for a Senior VP of Synergy, but few outside of management understand why, or what the role is. This disconnect is a bad sign. You’re not communicating properly and an unhealthy gap between senior leadership and everyone else is opening. The gap will only get wider as you hire management. They come in to a disconnected culture, and disconnect things further.
The second problem may be that you don’t actually need this role, and management is wrong and malcontents on the outside are right. You have calculated something incorrectly. You’ve misidentified a problem and seen its solution as a management hire. Now you’re really screwed because undoing this is almost impossible. So before you hire a new leadership role, be beyond 100% sure this is not the case. It’d be a good idea to engage employees outside of management for their opinion.
Anyway, back to Mr. Communications Director. I can’t speak to whether he was the “right” person for this conjured up position, but there was no real way for him to coexist with others peacefully. Any time he was involved with developers, it bred confusion and resentment. My most direct interaction with him was when he insisted I pass my personal blog posts through his team for
censoringreview. I understood he was just doing his job, but the role itself was counter to the historical culture. The hire was a product of both a management disconnect, and hiring for an imagined need.
It’s obvious how this story ends, and why I put in the extra time to think about opening up new senior roles.