Case : Can a Company have multiple CEO

Case : Can a Company have multiple CEO’s?

In this article I will try describing one of the very recent examples related to one of the biggest Indian software development companies. The article highlights how big corporate fail to understand the fundamental principles of systems.

Let me start by asking the following questions

  • Can a project have multiple project managers?
  • Can a connection pool have multiple connection pool managers?
  • Can a country have multiple Prime Ministers / Presidents?
  • Can a state have multiple Chief Ministers?
  • Can a city have multiple police commissioners?
  • Can a house lie within the jurisdiction of multiple police stations?
  • Can a cricket team/ any team have multiple Captains?
  • Can a family have multiple controllers?

Or In general ... Can a system have multiple controllers?

For the readers who have read the article “Controllers and their applications” …. The answer for all of the above questions is a strict no.

We know one of the very important characteristics of a controller is …”Controllers are strictly singleton” ie There cannot exist a well designed system in this world with more than one controller trying to control a particular region at a particular point of time.

Ideally in most of the systems it will never happen, but in case it happens accidentally / deliberately[due to lack of knowledge] , the system is bound for a failure.”

In my previous article on controllers, we have come across the reasons behind the failure of system due to multiple controllers.

If for all the above questions the answer is a strict no … then what do you think about the following question..

Can a company have multiple CEOs?

If we consider the characteristics of the controller and all of the above examples ….. logically the answer is NO.

As I can understand CEO is a designation which is meant for the Base Controller/ Super Controller of the entire company as a system wherein his job is to control the various structural components (Sub Controllers, Mediators, Employees and the various resources) in the system so as to deliver the desired behaviors of company as a system.

Also the CEO as a controller is accountable for the success / failure of the company.

For example , The CEO of Royal Challengers , Bangalore was sacked by its management for the dismal performance of the team in the first season of Indian Premier League. There are numerous examples in this world wherein the CEOs are fired if the company doesn’t achieve the desired results.

Technically a system with multiple controllers fails because of the following reasons

  1. The controlled components are not sure whose order they are supposed to take as a result they are unable to delivers the behaviors expected from them.
  2. The multiple controllers will always conflict with each other, because all of the controllers will try controlling the same region at the same time [Remember the conflict between mother in law and daughter in law ].

Same will also happen if there are multiple CEOs/ Controllers trying to control a single company.

Now coming to this realistic example of this “Indian IT Company”

As we all will know about the case of an Indian IT Company who came out with the concept of multiple CEOs couple of years back had to revert back to a single CEO system …as the experiment of multiple CEOs failed and the company failed to achieve the desired business objectives [As reported by certain sections of the media]. Given the super arrogant nature of the Top Management of Indian companies [specifically the Indian IT Companies] , they will never accept that their experiment had failed.

Now the point is

How can a company of that repute make a fundamental mistake like this? Was it by design or was it by accident?

My answer to this question is …It was definitely not an accident …it was by design which was the result of Ignorance and Arrogance.

Readers might be surprised when I use the Ignorance and Arrogance.

I am using the word “Ignorance” because it is possible that the management of the company was not aware of this property of a controller within a system hence they would have taken this decision. At least to the best of my knowledge … the importance of the controller and its characteristics are not well known. Although the rule looks commonsensical , but there have been numerous examples that I have pointed out wherein a lot of people failed to understand this characteristic there by letting the system fail. Classical examples being family as a system with multiple controllers, A cricket team with multiple captains and “A Coalition government – A case of system with multiple controllers”. I am sure if the people are aware of this problem, they will also be able to find a solution to the same as well.

Coming to the word “Arrogance” … I cannot accept that the management was not aware of these characteristics …because I have been training their teams on “System Design Patterns” for the past 6 years and during every training I discuss the Controller Pattern and the Singleton property of Controllers and its single handed property of making the systems fail. Ever since this company took the decision of Multiple CEOS, regularly the participants had raised the design issue of their company with multiple CEOS[controller] and we all knew that this experiment will fail, because at least history of Systems proves this fact. Initially we thought that ,although there are two CEOs but with their AREAS TO BE CONTROLLED clearly demarcated with no conflict of interest wherein IT COMPANY was a system with two sub systems with their corresponding sub controllers. But even in that case the IT COMPANY should have had one more super controller controlling both the sub controllers of the two subsystems.


The company could have had two CEOs but one controlling at a time.

In any case the employees of that company to the level of delivery managers were aware of this problem…. so one of the case might be that the employees didn’t communicate this design problem to the top management. But think about it “As a Project Manager can one question the decision of the board of directors?” So it is quite acceptable that the employees did not to communicate this design flaw to the management.

Knowing IT Industry well I am equally sure that even if I had written to the top management about this design flaw at the beginning or in the middle of the problem, they would have just ignored it or would have blatantly told me that “It might fail in all the other systems but will not fail in this case as WE ARE A DYNAMIC IT COMPANY believing in making with a disruptive business models”.

There have been numerous occasions wherein we have cautioned the top management about various fundamental problems [which have been accepted by their project managers and delivery managers] but have been completely ignored by the top management for mysterious reasons. One such fundamental problem that is staring the software development industry is the “Lack of interest of the software development companies towards Analysis and Design of software systems…importantly the complete neglect of Non Functional Requirements”.

In a nutshell … this entire problem and the subsequent embarrassment could have been avoided had the management of the IT Company had been aware of this principle with its repercussions.

I believe it’s a classical example of the “Singleton principle of Controllers” being violated in the Corporate Management Domain and its repercussions.

This example should make the Corporate’ s understand that their companies are technical systems which are governed by proven system design principles and patterns which should be religiously followed .

This case should also be an eye opener for the Top Management to open its doors for any positive suggestions irrespective of the level from which the suggestions are originating. I personally believe its quite embarrassing for any company that their employees were aware of the problem and the solution while the top management was ignorant of the same.

I conclude this article by pointing out that Management of any company is nothing but the controlling infrastructure of that complex system where in controllers and control entities need to placed at the right place and the right level of granularity ensuring that all the characteristics of controllers are followed in the right spirit.

Hemant Jha
Founder - VPlanSolutions
Researcher, Trainer