The Chief Everything Officer Phenomenon

Last Updated Jun 17, 2009 1:46 PM EDT

Remember when you could run an entire company, no matter how big, with just a chief executive officer, a president, a chief financial officer, and a bunch of vice presidents?

Then we started seeing chief operating officers, chief technology officers, and chief marketing officers. Now we've got chief everything officers. When did everybody become a chief? Sony now has a chief transformation officer. President Obama is looking to hire a chief performance officer. I don't even want to know what that's all about.

We also have chief accounting officers, chief administrative officers, chief information officers, chief investment officers, and chief strategy officers.

And it gets even more esoteric: chief analytics officers, chief business officers, chief communications officers, chief compliance officers, chief creative officers, chief credit officers, chief data officers, chief diversity officers, chief international officers, chief legal officers, chief learning officers, chief medical officers, chief networking officers, chief privacy officers, chief process officers, chief risk officers, chief science officers, chief security officers, it goes on and on.

Lately I've been hearing of chief blogging officers. You've got to be kidding. What's next, chief tweeting officer?

There are even chief visionary officers, probably for envisioning new chief officer titles.

When the phrase "C-Suite" popped into usage, I thought that was really dumb and totally unnecessary. I still don't like it. I guess it just seems overly self-important. But a suite is hardly big enough to hold all these new chiefs. What are they going to call it now? You can probably stuff them all in a medium-sized tent. That's it, the "C-Tent."

Remember "office of the president?" That was big for a while. I never understood how you could get all those huge egos to work together in one office. Then I found out they didn't really work in one office, it was just a figure of speech. Then why did they call it that? I guess "presidents in a box" didn't have that majestic ring to it.

What really gets me is tiny little puissant companies where everyone's got some big title and there are three levels of vice presidents. You know what I'm talking about.

Remember when Captain Kirk could run an entire star ship and conquer alien races with just a science officer, an engineer, an ensign, and a few lieutenants? Then, all of a sudden, Kirk's an admiral, Spock's a captain, and all these commanders started popping up. What's the universe coming to when even the Enterprise has title inflation?

On the flip-side, I have to admit, I really did like being a vice president. I liked being a senior vice president even better. Then, during the tech bubble, Silicon Valley VCs were just grabbing people off the street and making them CEOs, so I did that too for a little while until the bubble burst and I was busted back to Sr. VP again. That was okay, I guess.

Do you suppose we'll ever go back to the days when lots of money and perks were enough and everybody didn't need a special title? Probably not.

[For a serious discussion on this topic, check out: Chief Receptionist Officer? Title Inflation Hits the C-Suite]

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