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My View: Cisco’s Councils and Boards

There’s been quite a bit of talk about our Councils and Boards structure lately and we’ve gotten some diverse feedback coming from both Cisco employees as well as beyond these walls. Transparent communication is very important to me, and in that spirit I wanted to take some time to provide my opinion as a leader and member of several Councils here at Cisco.I say this all the time: Cisco suffers from an excess of opportunity … and that could not be truer than it is today. The growth opportunities facing us are incredible. As the network becomes the platform for work, home and everything in between, Cisco is becoming more and more relevant in many new areas -- we call these our Market Adjacencies. And let’s be clear, we must aggressively address each one, as we work to continually drive greater value from the network. With 30 adjacencies today, you can only imagine the operational challenges we experience as we work to manage each of these high potential areas.In 2001, with revenue of $22B, we were only #1 or #2 in two market segments (routing and switching). Today, we are #1 or #2 in 12 market segments. As the EVP of Operations, Processes, and Systems, I spend time daily in both the Council & Board world as well as my traditional functional role. And that’s because it can’t be just one or the other. What we’re doing at Cisco is tapping the best of both management approaches.Cisco is the largest functionally organized company that I know of. We have a solution approach to the market which means products from across multiple technologies are combined with our advanced services, along with many other business offerings, to provide a complete solution for our customer. To deliver this requires a commitment to collaborate at all levels across Cisco. Breaking into divisions would create artificial barriers, add redundant overhead, and increase the complexity for the customer. The Council & Board structure enables us to quickly bring together the functional teams to develop a solution- such as next generation healthcare solutions like HealthPresence or go after a market- such as emerging countries. It’s a management approach that enables us to align teams and create accountability for a cross-functional opportunity.Recently, my colleague Keith Goodwin talked about his point of view on our management structure. I’ve been part of the Council & Board journey from the beginning. It’s how we are recognizing future markets to capture growth opportunities. I’m a member of the operating committee for the company (the committee to which all of our councils report), I co-chair the Connected Business Operations Council, and was the initial co-chair of the Emerging Countries Council. We knew Emerging Countries was going to be a growth area and early on, made the bet by creating a new geography called Emerging Countries under the leadership of senior vice president, Paul Mountford. This was essentially just a change in the sales organization. Many companies would have stopped there. Instead, we created the Emerging Countries Council (ECC) so that Paul could leverage the scale of the combined functions (finance, operations, services, etc.) without the need to create redundant infrastructure in the new geography. The ECC aligned our investments so each functional investment would be maximized -- they created an Integrated Operating Plan which was agreed upon by all functions. And just as important, the ECC holds the functions accountable to the execution of the Council Decisions. Our growth in Emerging Markets proved it was making an impact. I also don’t want to underestimate the critical importance that culture plays in a company of our size. As we’re making these moves into new adjacencies via the Councils and Boards, we have to make sure we take care of the culture. We need the business to transform, but we can’t take risks and tear the fabric of our culture as we embrace new and different ways to work. We must continue to do what we do well (both inside our functions and at the core of our business), yet evolve as needed to be more impactful as we aggressively go after critical adjacencies.We’ve been evolving the Council & Board structure since its early beginnings in 2001 and to be sure, we’ll continue to evolve as we learn what works, and as importantly, what doesn’t. It’s not perfect… but it IS perfect for Cisco right now. What’s clear to me is that the most important advantage we’ve gained is a structure that allows us to quickly pull together cross-company functional experts that are empowered to make decisions and drive execution that’s good for both our customers and our shareholders.

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2 Comments.


  1. Seems like you have a very sound plan . Even in dealing with todays economy situation.

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  2. As we learn what works?Yikes Randy!Suggest you just throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks.Additionally, Chambers stated he came up with the councils and boards at Davos in 2007, what gives?Sincerely,Brad Reese on CiscoNetwork World Cisco Subnet: The Independent Voice of Cisco Customers

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