Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chief Responsibility Officer - CXO of the Month?

Almost exactly a year ago, in my post ChiefInnovation Officer I identified how CXOs are being named according to a variety of core corporate values like quality, information, learning and, at that time, innovation. Today the latest flavor is CRO or Chief Responsibility Officer which is so real that there is a magazine, "CRO" which is hosting its second (already) annual meeting of CROs in April.

A couple of things come to mind. Although I have not plotted the introduction rate of CXO functions over time I have the impression it is accelerating and wonder what that might mean. The other is that if there is a trend, what does it suggests about the next CXO function?

What is the job of the CRO? I'm not going to try to exhaustively define this but rather observe that its origins appear in the ideas around corporate social responsibility, i.e. that corporations should be good citizens and care for the environment, underprivileged and so on. As in the emergence of the earlier CXO functions it certainly appears the right thing to do, to ensure a corporation fulfills all its responsibilities beyond making money for its investors. But what are these responsibilities?

It is necessary that a corporation accepts the responsibility to satisfy all its stakeholders: investors, employees, customers, providers, partners, governments, local communities, and now including the environment, global communities. If any one of these stakeholders is unsatisfied the business is unsustainable, which becomes obvious earlier with dissatisfied investors and later with a dissatisfied global community, although those cycle-times may be-a-changin'.

There is a downside, however. It takes an individual to respond. Responsibility can only be taken, i.e. the commitment to respond can only be made, by an individual and it is a pretense to believe one person can take responsibility for the actions of another. The buck stops in the corner office because the occupant is expected to ensure that people in his/her organization do take responsibility and if they do not s/he has failed in managing and/or leading.

So, if someone else is in charge of others behaving responsibly with respect to a corporation's stakeholders, what does the CEO do? Meanwhile, does the CRO position open the door for thinking, "although I don't like what I see, I need not worry about it because that's the CRO's responsibility?"

A Leader-Follower can always be helped by good examples and role models. However, as this edge of the tetrahedral model "A Vision of Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation" shows,responding is about doing something new,innovating, as an action following some sort of stimulus, in a collaboratively negotiated fashion so the resulting contribution is satisfactory to all concerned.

The opposite, complementary edge of the model is about structuring, i.e. leading for implementation by providing vision and organization! We could jump to the conclusion that is the CRO's role. Wrong! It is the individual's responsibility to self-manage by visualizing and organizing thoughts, values and actions to implement what responsibility means to to him/her.

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