The anti-pattern I’d like to explore today is what I affectionally call the head of
It starts off quite innocently. Let’s assume you are the CEO at the early stages of a company and you have identified a problem to solve, say in the general area of customer support. Customer support as a function doesn’t exist yet. You ask around your peer group, you look at successful companies and then you make the common mistake – you get afflicted by senior’
This is where things start to fall apart. Your head of customer support now starts thinking, hey I’m
This example is not only applicable to the CEO, but this can also happen at every level of the organization all the way down to an individual team manager. Generally stated, this is the – I got problem X to solve, I need a head of X to solve. Its the belief that I can solve this problem by outsourcing the problem wholesale to a senior person to solve.
So how should you approach this problem? There is a better way. I call it – “doers first”.
First and foremost you need to articulate the problem very clearly. Then think from first principles, ideally talk to your peers and really understand or at least have a few concrete ideas on how to solve the problem. You have to do the legwork, you cannot outsource this. Once you have the basic contours of what you need to do next then it’s just a resourcing issue. Ideally, you can solve this yourself and move on to the next problem, but as a company scales, this may not be possible anymore. At this stage, hire more people to actually do the work. Do not go and hire that senior person now, hire the actual do’ers who can do the work. Using our previous example if you have customer support as a problem area, hire a good customer support rep first, rather than a VP of customer success . Then work on solving this problem, together, you and that first rep as a team. This is the right way to scale. You’ve only added people when you actually need them and you are making actual progress on solving the problem. As the problem scope grows, hire more customer support reps. Further down the line, when you are in a state where you just can’t manage the people anymore, or manage the org complexity anymore, then hire the Head Of/VP person. You know how the nuts and bolts work, so you are in a better position to hire the Head of
Would love to hear your experiences with this anti-pattern in the comments!
 If you are a very small company, sometimes you have to give titles out – ideally, fight that (see trapdoor decisions). In the case that you have to give out the title, be extremely clear that they are the only one you are going to hire for a while, they have to do the work.