An influential Harvard Business Review article published in 2012 outlined the scope creep of Fortune 500 CEO responsibility. The article, written by management consultants Gary L. Neilson and Julie Wolfe, told how the number of direct reports — executives reporting directly to CEOs — had doubled in two decades from five to “almost ten” by the mid-2000s.
In a recent article speculating about Apple’s repositioning of design guru Jony Ive, Business Insider mentions that Apple CEO Tim Cook — who replaced legend Steve Jobs — has 17 people reporting directly to him. That’s about 50% more than what CEOs of far smaller companies typically have in the way of direct reports. BI refers to another Harvard Business Review article wherein Jack Welch, former GE CEO and management wunderkind, says 10 to 15 direct reports is the most any CEO should have. (And GE had 14 distinct businesses when Welch was there, from aircraft engines to NBC television.) What Welch didn’t have in 1989 (when the interview took place) was the Internet, which has introduced multiple efficiencies that Cook and Apple are expert in taking advantage of. Besides, Tim Cook’s got a brand new watch and he’s unlikely to be wasting any time.