Is it time for Cisco to ditch its councils?

Summary:Cisco has been shifting management responsibilities to dozens of internal councils. Is this the root of its current woes?

Over the past couple of years Cisco has shifted management responsibilities to internal committees, or as many as 59 or more "councils".

John Chambers, CEO, has spoken about how it was initially difficult for him to change from the traditional top-down management structure. But he also said that the collaborative approach to management was working and making Cisco into a better competitor.

But was this assessment correct?

Therese Poletti, columnist at Marketwatch believes that the committee structure is not helping Cisco and should be ditched. And she found an analyst that agreed.

“That structure makes sense on paper, but you just wonder if people are spending too much time collaborating and in meetings,” said Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities.

...“People at Cisco are constantly going to meetings and a lot of PowerPoint presentations,” said White, who has a buy on Cisco. “I just wonder if everyone has the time to innovate as much as they would like or as much as the company would like. You are constantly shuffling around from meeting to meeting."

Cisco should ditch committee structure Therese Poletti's Tech Tales - MarketWatch

Cisco spokeswoman Karen Tillman told Ms Poletti that the councils would be reviewed by Cisco but would likely not be changed. "But I think what will change is the accountability,” Ms Tillman said.

Product managers etc, can be fired but it is tough to make a committee accountable and fire the lot. Maybe Mr Chambers will make an example of a committee or two in that way — as a motivator for the others?

However, can management by committee work for a tech company dealing with fast moving markets? Cisco is a large company, which already slows its reaction time. Committees are not known for speeding up decision making. Combining the two appears to be very risky.

Topics: Cisco


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

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