Dome of the Belgian royal greenhouses in Laeken (external). (c) E. Forrest Christian

Mark Van Clieaf asks, “What work are we paying CEOs to do?”

Forrest ChristianGovernance, Strategy Leave a Comment

Mark Van Clieaf recently sent me a draft of his article (as I mentioned earlier) and I think that he has a point that is worth getting greater exposure. This isn’t some bizarre socialist argument in capitalist clothing. Instead, he’s asking “What are we paying this CEO for? Does that make sense?” He’s all for paying someone for what they are doing but he believes that CEOs are delivering only short-term value, at the expense of the company’s long term viability. And, if his numbers are correct, most US CEOs aren’t even delivering short term value: their companies are not making more than they are spending.

You may want to read up on some of his articles on executive compensation. He combines the work of Jaques with others, such as the complexity & network theorists, Gillian Stamp and especially David Billis.

The obvious place to start is at Van Clieaf’s company’s website. MVC International in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). There is also a link to documents that you’ll need to register for. Since many of his earlier articles are difficult to find (at least for me), this is handy. I had some trouble with the registration process (MS Access! Too much information to the black hats!) but perhaps this has been worked out.

The best introduction to his thinking, though, may be a PowerPoint presentation that he did in 2001 for the Toronto Strategic Leadership Forum. (“Real Work, Real Leadership , Real Value“) It’s a bunch of slides but it shows some of the depth of his thinking. Toronto is a hotbed of Requisite Organization consultants.

For a very brief overview of his findings on executive compensation and the basics of his argument for director responsibility, see “Statistics Show Need for Executive Compensation Overhaul” on

There’s an interesting article (“The king is dead. Long live the king? Corporate life-cycles, succession planning and organizational renewal”) that seems to be a chapter by Mark Willis that talks about Van Clieaf’s earlier work on executive compensation. Acrobat format.

Board’s due diligence“. In camagazine (Canadian Accountant, I think). Mentions Van Clieaf’s Organizational Value Added�. And it is a full account of his thinking on executive compensation crisis.

Associations and bureaucracies – Health Care Organizational Structure“, Physician Executive, May-June, 2000 by Elliott Jaques. Nothing to do with Van Clieaf but I found it anyways and wanted to note it.

In search of competence: structural behavior interviews“. Business Horizons, March-April, 1991.

Dome of the Belgian royal greenhouses in Laeken (external). © E. Forrest Christian

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