Winter at Lofoten (2008). By Tackbert. Public Domain.

How To Judge a CEO’s Capacity to Do That Job

Forrest ChristianGovernance 1 Comment

You can get a pretty good idea of how risky a CEO’s tenure will be to overall shareholder value by looking at interviews he or she gave before taking on that top job, and assessing these via Elliott Jaques’s “complexity of information processing” (CIP) method. This often gives you some really good data.

I’ve decided to start measuring the interviews that present-day CEOs gave to the press before they ascended on high. Once you take the top spot, every comment is carefully crafted and managed. Prior, you tend to do real interviews, with normal responses.

If Mark Van Clieaf of MVC International is correct, then I should find most CEOs of very large corporations coming in at Str5 or Str4. This should be interesting to look at. The cascade of poor decision-making will continue to occur unless there exists a pocket of resistance, a group of managers whom the executive office ignores.

It should be an interesting project. What if I rate a group of interviews for, say, the CEO of a large computer manufacturer, as indicating a CIP of Str4? I wonder if Mark Van Clieaf isn’t going about his attempts to reform corporate governance from the wrong direction. By simply coding the interviews with the CEOs, I can show that the role is at a particular level of work

(For more on Van Clieaf’s ideas and writings, see the MVC International website or his article in the Ivey Business Journal [“Are boards and CEOs accountable for the right level of work?” May/June 2004].)

This would provide ammunition to any shareholder lawsuits against the boards that might occur, providing the ideas of Jaques & Brown & Co. a wide audience.

It’s odd that no one has thought to do this before. Sure, it has a variety of dangers that will require some consultation with counsel before I publish any more but it should be an interesting project.

If you have an interview with a present or past CEO from before they took the office, I’d love to see it.

Winter at Lofoten (2008). By Tackbert. Public Domain.

Comments 1

  1. Forrest you raise an interesting point here about Level of Capabiity
    versus the Level of Work

    Actually we need both as you know but to talk to Directors about the LOC is too abstract for many initially. So lets focus on clarity about what is the work. Directors then make a judgement about whether the CEO can operate at the level of innovation.

    As for speeches I would be careful because 70 % of the time you are hearing the LOC of the speech writer not the CEO. Heck I just wrote / edited the release for a CEO and raised the bar on the language.

    But a live debate that would be different as EJ would I am sure agree



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