Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Last Thursday (September 18), Larry Ellison, the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Oracle Corporation, announced that he would be stepping down from his position as CEO to become the company’s new Executive Chairman. So who is replacing Ellison as the new Chief Executive Officer? A woman. Well, not quite. Safra Catz, the Chief Financial Officer for Oracle Corporation, has been named co-CEO alongside Mark Hurd.1

Safra Catz, a Chi Omega Fraternity alumna, first joined Oracle Corporation in 1999 as a Senior Vice President. Since her time at Oracle, Safra Catz has risen through the corporate ranks to become one of the most powerful women in business – number fourteen according to Forbes. Catz has served as an Executive Vice President, an interim Chief Financial Officer, a full-time Chief Financial Officer, co-president of Oracle, as well as a member of the board. In 2013, Catz was named as the highest paid executive woman, earning more than $44 million! So why was Safra Catz only promoted to co-Chief Executive Officer?

Since Larry Ellison was known for his “aggressive” business tactics and will power, it will be interesting to see how Safra Catz adopts her own management style.1 In her new position as co-CEO, Catz will be responsible for overseeing all manufacturing, financial, and legal aspects of Oracle Corporation.2 These responsibilities are not unlike what a project manager faces in his or her occupation. Project managers are responsible for many things:

  • Making sure that all activities (especially critical activities) are finished in their order of precedence and on time;
  • Overseeing that the project is completed within budget;
  • Establishing that the project meets its quality goals; and
  • Ensuring that the people assigned to the project receive the motivation, direction, and information needed to complete their jobs.3

Additionally, a project manager knows that project planning is essential for the efficiency of a project. Organizing and planning a project is helpful when:

  • Work tasks are specifically defined and have clear deadlines;
  • The job is somewhat unique to the organization;
  • The work within the project contains complex and interrelated tasks requiring specialized skills, perhaps from various departments;
  • The project is critical to the organization; and
  • The project cuts across organizational lines.3

As co-Chief Executive Officer, Safra Catz will take on many responsibilities, many of which are very similar to what a project manager has to do. As an executive suite-level manager, Catz has cross-functional expertise, is able to lead, negotiate, and reach goals, have the necessary political skills to deal with stockholders, stakeholders, etc., and be able to maintain the perception of her company.4 Project managers, like CEOs, must be able to lead members of their teams, some of which consist of members of various departments (like a matrix project). Project managers must also be able to give the proper motivation and leadership for their team members, as well as provide logistical information. While Safra Catz (and Mark Hurd) may not be as hands-on as a regular project manager, CEOs share many common skills and characteristics of project managers.




3) Principles of Operations Management: Sustainability and Supply Chain Management (class text)


11 thoughts on “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

  1. Great post, Kristin. I really think putting Safra Catz as a co-CEO is definitely a great move. It’s important to note that she has risen through the ranks since 1999 and earned the position through her hard work. I don’t really understand why there is a need for two CEO’s though. This is definitely not a gender issue, as I feel that any two people, regardless of gender, would have difficulty co-existing and navigating the company consistently as “project managers.” **

  2. Hi. Kristin. I think this is a really good post. As what you post, the CEO is responsibility for overseeing all manufacturing, financial, and legal aspects, and these responsibilities are very similar to what a project manager has to do. Compare position of the CEO and the manager, i feel like they both are very important to the company. They both have their own job which all will coordinate the operation of the company. Not one of them can be dispensed with. In my opinion, different CEO will lead to a different effect of the company.

  3. I wonder how Oracle will separate the duties of having two CEO’s. Like you said in your post, CEO’s perform a similar function as project managers. From my experience, having two project managers on the same project causes nothing but confusion and problems. I think the only way it really can work out is if there is a clear separation between whos doing what without much overlap.

  4. Great insight Kristin on women in the workplace. It sounds like Safra Catz has accomplished a lot in her life moving up in her career. However I do not feel the need to specify the gender of one of the new CEO’s. I feel by specifying the gender you are demeaning women more. I also do not understand the need for two CEO’s.

  5. Interesting post, Kristin. It’s good to hear about something a little complex such as this, with two CEO’s taking over. It seems as if you idolize Safra, which is okay. I just don’t know much about her. Larry Ellison did the job on his own, so I am not sure that it is exactly a proud moment that she is doing a one man job with another person, but like I said I am not fully informed, all I know is what I am reading here. Interesting post nonetheless.

  6. I find it very interesting yet confusing as to why a company would need two CEO’s to work as project managers. I agree that gender is not an issue here but I wonder if it’s a matter of skills? Does the company plan on keeping both of them as a long term thing or were they both qualified and this co-CEO thing will determine who stays? Great post!

  7. You draw an interesting comparison between CEOs and project managers that I have not thought of before. It made me think of that a company is built up of leaders and project managers. The difference would be in the scales of responsibility yet many of the tasks and requirement are the same. Making sure employees complete their responsibilities on time, making sure employees understand what they have to do and what to contribute, and the proper motivation to keep employees happy. Very interesting post that has a new perception to offer.

  8. This was a really great title: it is what made me click and read the story. It was definitely odd seeing the man who created the company that we know today to step down, but Safra Catz seems up for the task. It will be intriguing to see how she co-exists, as I’m not sure it is common to have such a company of their scale run by two individuals, but if she truly is a great project manager she should be able to do it – let’s hope for the best!

  9. It’s crazy to see Larry Ellison step down from a company he helped create so greatly. I’m curious to see how a co-op works between two CEO’s and whether their strategies will work well together or not so well. That’s for the future to show. I see the link between project managers and the CEO’s, they have a great deal of responsibilities. In a way a CEO’s project is to run the company in my eyes. Great article Kristin.

  10. Awesome post! It’s kind of sad to see Larry Ellison, but at the same time I’m excited to follow this new and odd partnership and if it will work out. I guess two minds are better than one, although, it’s hard for me to see balance of control. I know that Chipotle as well as Whole Foods have 2 CEOs and it seems to be working out great for them! After reading your post I came across this article (didn’t know you could have 2 CEOs), which has an interesting take on this.

  11. The idea of having two CEO’s is a bold move. There are positives and negatives that could rise from this. For example what if they have different opinions on an important company matter. This could lead to delays in decision making. This can relate to the idea of having two project managers. If the project matters do not agree on what should be done first or where resources should be allocated the project could be delayed. This is an interesting company decision but as pointed out earlier Whole foods and Chipotle have two CEO’s and they are doing just fine.

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