Balance of Power

This morning, I was having a late breakfast with my friend Pierre (name was changed). Pierre is a 20 years older than me retired Marine officer who’s been working as a Chief Operation Officer in a few companies, helping 2 of them going public before retiring to take care of his disable daughter full time.

Pierre is someone I respect immensely. He’s one of the smartest and nicest person I know with an incredible sense of strategy, has a Captain Kirk like charisma and he decided to stop a brilliant career, move back to France after his daughter got hit by a car.

Last time we met was just before blueKiwi got acquired by Atos, and we talked a lot about the state of the company. It was a mess and there was no easy way out (but firing everyone and starting over). He told me something I forgot until today.

The hardest part in managing these companies was to set up an internal balance of power.

In other words: if for any reason a department gains more power than another, the company’s fucked up.

Because they bring back the money, sales believe they’re the most important part of the company. If you let them take the power, each and every one of them will try to have the whole company run for his interests. They’ll change the whole thing every time they meet a new prospect that doesn’t fit the existing. You work with 5 of them, imagine when there’s a 1000.

People building the product believe they’re the only one to create value because they provide what the sales need to bring the money back home. If I had listened to them, they would have worked on 2 years roadmaps to build a product for a market that won’t exist before a decade. I’ve never met divas like this in my whole career.

If you let the IT take the power, you’re doomed. Once these guys hold the keys, you’re sure nothing move in the company anymore. They’ll tell you their job is to ensure everything works to delay every evolution until they’ve tested all possible outcomes while spending their days playing Nethack. Since they got the technical knowledge, they believe they’re the kings of the world and the company can’t run without them.

And if you let the administrative / legal take over the company… I’m sure you’ve watched Brazil a couple of times, haven’t you?

Soldiers are disciplined and they all march forward. If you can do the same inside your company, you’ve done half of the job.

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