Usually, there is a function, group, or team that produces the primary output of the company, and their initiatives are often prioritized by leadership.

A widely-recognized example of this is the industrial design team at Apple during the Steve Jobs era. Another industry-wide example is the dichotomy between “front office” and “back office” at banks.

It’s usually not so stark, and it may change over time, but almost every organization has a “first class function,” and then everyone else.

It might be because of

  • your early leaders (if your CEO sets the tone or has a certain specialty; or if you have best in class leaders in function X who recruit an amazing team which ends up defining the org);

  • your product (a deeply technical product will probably be “engineering first” while a deeply operational product might be “ops first” or “growth first”);

  • or some other aspect of your culture, business, or operations.

The biggest risk is that the everyone else feels like second class citizens; which means talented people in those functions leave, which lowers the quality of those other functions, further cementing the dominance of the first-class citizens. Another way I’ve heard this framed is that function X is the key function, and everyone else feels like a “cost center.”

You might not ever be able to change it. You might not even want to change it. Just be honest with yourself; recognize it and be thoughtful and sensitive to it.


Written by Hari Raghavan, Founder of AbstractOps

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