"What's in a Name?"

Nick Forrest, CEO of Forrest & Company, and author of How Dare You Manage?, weighs in on levels of work and how titling that ignores levels creates confusion and dilutes credibility.

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In my book, I talk about the corporate disease of creating too many levels in a business and then populating each level with new titles. It is not uncommon for us to find companies of 2000-3000 employees, with 9 to 11 levels, some with titles such as:

  • Executive Vice President
  • Senior Vice President
  • Vice President
  • Assistant Vice President
  • Associate Vice President
  • Senior Director
  • Director
  • Assistant Director

Taken to the extreme, would you want to engage in work with an “Assistant Associate Vice President”? What confidence would you have in the capabilities and authority of this role to get things done?

This segmenting of levels dilutes the meaningful tasks and authority of each level of work. The value of a role is the value it can provide to the roles above and below it. When there are so many layers, the jobs are no longer meaty, challenging roles; they are hollow and mostly meaningless, creating an overly bureaucratic environment in which decision-making is stalled by the need to seek approval from multiple sources. There are now too many Vice Presidents of various kinds in the company, all compressed together, doing work that actually could be done by half the number. The complex titles devalue the work further as they suggest a level of competence that is never delivered, effectively taking away power and decision-making ability. Cutting the number of roles in half and scrubbing the titles of redundancies would create meaningful roles with respected titles whose incumbents will be respected and successful.

This entry has been borrowed from Nick’s blog.

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