The pressure on CEOs and leadership teams is relentless. There are myriad internal and external meetings to attend, endless reports to read and produce, and investors that need to be kept happy. Somehow, amid of all this, they are supposed to think about what the business might look like in five to ten years’ time.
Mary Jo Jacobi
, NED at Weir Group and a Board Mentor at Criticaleye, comments: “The biggest challenge that leaders face today is time… They have to be current with public affairs; what’s going on in the company; their competitors; and [there are] just so many things that are coming at them. There’s not enough time in the day.”
At the top level, you need to be able to possess strategic agility and flexibility, but you must also have an organisation that can execute at the speed that’s required. Rick Sheppard
, Head of Latin America for Consumer Healthcare at GlaxoSmithKline, explains: “In my industry it’s about two things. It’s the disruptive change but also the pace of change across so many fronts.
“Clearly, we need to deliver our core business and stay close to our consumers, but at the same time be looking at what our industry could look like three to five years from now, and how we need to shape both the talent as well as the strategies to make that change.”
, Relationship Manager at Criticaleye, notes that there is a continuing theme among the executives he works with of how to respond to new technology and disruption, irrespective of the industry they are in. “Technological change remains the primary disruptor. It will render many of today’s businesses irrelevant, unless leadership teams reflect on how to turn a threat into an opportunity.”
He continues: “Many execs understand where their business needs to be heading; the challenge lies in how to balance running the old operating model with simultaneously implementing and rolling out the new one.”
Strategy on the Run
According to Lynn Drummond
, Chair of Venture Life Group and a Board Mentor at Criticaleye, a good set of non-executive directors can make a significant difference by supporting the leadership team strategically. She explains: “When the executive team come to the Board... that’s when you should focus on strategy. Then you need to believe that your executive team can find the right tactics to deliver that strategy.”
It falls on the shoulders of the execs to implement the business plan in the right way, which is no mean feat in markets that are constantly shifting and changing. Paula Dowdy
, SVP & GM for EMEA at Illumina, states that “whatever industry you are in you are busy, and you have to start to differentiate the time you spend running your business versus the time you spend innovating… and getting ready for the next generation.”
It’s a non-negotiable if you consider yourself a genuine senior leader. Anthony Fletcher
, CEO of Graze, acknowledges that it is difficult to strike the right balance between tactics and strategy, especially in an international business. He says: “I think it’s a real problem today. It takes a lot of energy and time just to run the business, to stay on top of trading, to execute well.
“I think the key is [to] make time for strategic discussion. You challenge each other on these difficult decisions that management teams need to make; you look for external stimulus … outside of just what’s happening in your business.”
These comments were taken from the following Criticaleye films: