Today I got an email from a friend in the startup world that revisited an age old subject. Here's the email…
To: Todd Vernon
Sent: Sat Nov 22 13:04:39 2008
Subject: Q for ya!
for the nth time in my career I'm faced with something I could use some advice on. it's the age-old.... should the CEO have a right-hand-man developer-type that runs on the CEO's priority queue to handle the "this should just be easy and not take much time" stuff that comes up everyday? or... should the org not support/promote that... instead the CEO has to go through the queue/mix just like everyone/everything else to get a resource to do work?
I know my gut on this, but it seems to conflict with others' thinking. as someone I respect... I wanted your take.
I hope all is well,
I laugh inside when I get questions like this. Coming from the technical side of the business I know exactly what is being asked. Engineers drive toward process. If you ask them, they will say it's because 'that's more efficient'. I get it, I was those dudes. It's the truth putting process in place makes the organization more of a machine that creates predictable results, less down time, etc. What engineers won't tell you is it also makes their life more 'stable', more predictable, less stressful and a happy place for them. By the way, this is the appeal of Agile Methodology (in my opinion), it insulates stress from engineering – sometimes to the benefit of the company and sometimes not. But that's not what I want to talk about.
My answer to my friends question was…
This is exactly why CTO's and VP of Engineering's exist... The CTO works the CEO's agenda, moves business forward though technology breaks glass, etc...
The VP of Engineering keeps the organization out of trouble and moving the ball through process and endless lists of shit that by itself drags the company to a complete halt.
If your company only has a CTO then make a lead developer do the VP of Engineering role as defined above. If your company has no CTO then the CEO must do the CTO job as defined above.
If your company doesn't' have a CEO that can do CTO role above, you better not be in a tech business.
My 2 cents
This goes to my earlier post. The C level people around the CEO better be driving the agenda of the business. The agenda of the business does not conform to a nice schedule of when partners are interested in doing things with you, does not conform to when customers want to sign on, does not conform to….well, anything. The C level team needs the ability to break glass, get people moving, and take advantage of situation. The VP team needs to build a sustainable business through process, and sweep up broken glass.