Chief No Officer

I met a C-level leader at a 3D printing startup that described his functional role as the “Chief No Officer”. His job was to say no to almost everything.

The promise of 3D printing is that it can it can (supposedly) make everything. The reality is that it can rarely make anything.

His version of this was “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it”. Hence the CNO’s job was to shut down most of the ideas, to keep the company focused.

Reflecting on this interaction, I am seeing how I have not been very good at saying no. The potentiality of yes is exciting. The possibilities. The novelty. The excitement.

The reality of yes is exhausting. Missed deadlines. Unresponded-to emails. Disappointed customers and partners.

It is hard to say no. It takes the courage to be disliked. We can never please everyone. Adler explained the impossibility of this.

Without the discipline of no, it is hard to have time to focus on the few truly resonant yeses.

Moving forward, I’m going to try to be a better CNO, to apply the “Hell Yeah, or No” Rule a bit more often.