My Regression Theory on Organizational Destruction

June 8, 2010

In which Jill confirms that everyone who runs backwards does so awkwardly.


It’s a familiar story. An executive at a Fortune 1000 company leaves to start his own business. The market craters, his business falters, and he returns hat in hand to his old firm and resumes his old job. This just happened to a client of mine, a brilliant marketing guy who tried to launch a consulting firm just as companies were cutting back. He re-joined his former employer, a specialty retailer, and took up where he left off. We caught up over drinks a few weeks ago and I asked him what had changed between his departure and his return.

“Everything,” he said with a deadpan look on his face. I couldn’t tell whether this was good news or bad news. Knowing his planning skills, I was hoping that during his absence the retailer had taken his vision of smaller customer segments and multi-channel inbound and outbound outreach and executed on it, and was now celebrating explosive profitability and jaw-dropping sales uplift.

But that wasn’t what he meant. In fact, my friend explained, his company had regressed since he’d left. The CRM system he’d acquired in his position as Executive Vice President