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  • Writer's pictureMarc Breetzke, M.A., M.A.

The fallacy of the Chief Transformation Officer

As businesses evolve, they possess different strains of functions and systems that undergo the same process. Sometimes this type of evolution wanders from department to department. In the case of agility, we've seen (and still continue to see) organizations and companies take on the task of working in an agile fashion. Sometimes this type of change occurs simultaneously across all industries. Especially in the context of a changed political or economic climate, quick transforming changes occur simultaneously. The pandemic forced businesses to adapt new working and communication patterns and styles. One of these evolutionary phenomena is the one of the Chief Transformation Officer (CTO).

"Nothing is constant, but change." Heraclitus

In the evolution of quality management to the point of where it is today, there once was the issue whether every business should have a single Chief Quality Officer or Quality Manager. For a while, having filled such a position was a prerequisite in order to receive accreditation for several quality management certificates. After a while, these provisions were dropped (e.g. ISO). Why? Because quality should not be delegated to one person, position or even a department. Every executive and every manager should be highly identified with quality management. The same principle applies nowadays to the topic of transformation.

Transformation is more than a quick-fix, a technical change, or a slight system adaption. It usually entails an incisive cultural shift. It cannot be delegated and needs the full support of CEOs and influential leaders in a company.

In order for the classic CTO as most businesses view them to succeed, one of the following conditions must be met:

  1. The CEO is highly focused on the future vision and lets the CTO be second in command, or

  2. the CTO coaches the CEO towards a different pace of the CTO.

The first option is the ideal situation, however, rarely observable in real life. Figuratively, CEOs usually still run from fire to fire in order to solve problems.

The second one is the least probable constellation since CEOs seldomly work well within a hierarchy. For some, the question arises why the CTO is not CEO? Once that happens, the management has suffered severe damage.

The real value of a Chief Transformation Officer

The best use of a CTO is by having them function as an intersection between strategy and execution. They need to balance giving orders and educating or developing people. They are the ones to fine-tune performing and planning. This requires a special skill set in which few CTOs receive structured training (at which we'll take a look in another blog article). To train CTOs and integrate them in the company is one of the key priorities of businesses with high ambitions in transformation initiatives.

About the author:

Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A. is the founder of MB Inspirations and Europe's leading strategy expert. He works as a consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and lecturer all over the world for large, international businesses (e.g. Fortune 500) and leaders. He studied Strategic Communications in Germany and in the United States. Today, he operates from his head-office in Stuttgart, Germany.

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