Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CMOO – Fad or Fabulous?

Why add another “O” to an executive title or in some cases add an executive to the team? Doesn’t this seem like a fad or a way to add self importance, or God forbid, a way to fatten a probable over inflated or over worked executive team? Here’s my take.
Whether you add an “O” or merely acknowledge that there is a need for Marketing and Operations to be synchronized, on the same page, or at least talk and plan together is what is important. The point is that the two are interconnected to achieve success.
I know from my personal experience that when I am in a Marketing role and I mention that I managed a 150,000+ sq. ft warehouse with over 1,000 skus plus a mail house operation, I immediately get more respect and cooperation from the Operations people because they know “I get it”. I know what it is like to manage the project from a time, resource, equipment and budget standpoint. Yes, I know how to drive a forklift and I can stuff envelopes too (when the auto-stuffer is broken!).
One of my ex-college professors at UCLA teaches that organizations behave the way in which they are structured. The theory is that there has to be a fair level of balanced power. This thinking, although I have experienced it WAY TOO many times, reminds me of our human pettiness. “I’m a Director and you are a Manager so what I say goes.” This type of mentality, albeit efficient on the battle field, has outgrown its usefulness in today’s web-like matrix organizations. Now, don’t get me wrong, as our dear past president would say, you need a “deciderer” ;) and that is a given, but the dialogue, planning and creativity is best when everyone contributes. Some of the best ideas and solutions that I have been the “deciderer” on (LOVE saying that—tee hee) have sprung from the insight of an administrative assistant or receptionist! Yup, I said, “an administrative assistant or receptionist”.
It makes sense when you think about it. Their role often involves listening, observing and learning the idiosyncrasies of different people. In other words, they see, hear and know a lot. Any time I go into a new situation, I make fast friends with the receptionist. You’d be amazed with the info I have procured prior to a client meeting, interview or pitch. They are a fountain of information on corporate culture, individual worker’s preferences and are usually on a first name basis with the CEO. (I wrote about this in an earlier post advising people to ‘always be nice to the receptionist’.
Now back to the “O” dilemma. I haven’t seen it work well when the Marketing Head reports into Operations – say a COO. Usually great ideas are laid to bed when the COO hears of the cost, complications, etc. This is especially true in lean organizations where the COO also has finance report into her/him. In situations where the CMO and the COO are equal, it generally falls to the “deciderer” to either pick a “winner” or dilute the plan with compromises that make the plan far less zealous than originally planned.
By creating the CMOO position, it is a huge nod to marketing folks that they need to be intimately knowledgeable with the operational aspects of implementing their grand marketing scheme. I cannot tell you how many operational people roll their eyes when they are told that they are being brought into a launch for a ‘new marketing program’. (The “launch?” They should have been brought into the brainstorming session!) These meetings usually end in a disaster or the campaign suffers because the marketing people didn’t even give implementation of their grand idea a thought and inevitably, it is either too costly or too timely to implement as they designed it. 
So, I guess, I vote “yes” on the extra “O”. If for no other reason than it creates an educational, if not at a minimum, an understanding that successful marketing MUST HAVE successful operational support and process integrated into the campaign. With the cohesion of Marketing and Operations, working shoulder to shoulder (or brain to brain) there is a much higher probability that a hard hitting, ROI driven, timely and effective campaign can be launched without any huge surprises or the dreaded words, “that can’t be done”.
So, a word of advice to those marketers who are not in an organization where marketing and operations are thought of as close family relatives, take your counterpart in operations out to lunch. And, at lunch, tell them what you are thinking about doing and ask them, “how (or would) that work?” Not only will you learn something, but you’ll gain a friend and maybe some support. You might even gain a friendly hand when you’re deep in trouble trying to accomplish something for the company or a client in an unreasonable timeline that has been dictated to you.
This post is dedicated to all of those amazing operational friends who taught me so much and saved my “bacon” many times when I was in a pinch as a marketer.   

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