Could Your Strategy or Project Be At Risk?
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Has Your C-suite a Rosy View of Org. Reality?
Could Your Strategy or Project Be At Risk?
modern skyscraper against colorful sky at sunset
Has Your C-suite a Rosy View of Org. Reality?
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Leaders With Perfect Vision Are Rare, But What About You?

Among the many talents and skills required by leaders is perfect vision, or, to be more precise, the ability to focus on both the short and the long term. This enables them to meet the dual imperatives of performance today and transformation tomorrow. At the best of times, this ability is a rare talent, but in these times of slowing growth and increased uncertainty, it is even rarer still.

Leaders and their organizations have narrowed their gaze to focus on short-term performance, prioritizing cuts, consolidation and efficiency. The result is a short-term uplift in performance. However, it will likely be some time before we know the longer-term implications of diverting resources and attention from those projects and initiatives that shape the future.

Perfect Vision

Leaders with perfect vision are rare – about as rare as a little-known optical condition called anisometropia. That is where a person is both nearsighted and farsighted – one eye is focused on what is near while the other is focused on the distance. Leaders with this condition can focus on short-term performance and longer-term transformation too!

Attending to short and medium-term needs is naturally a priority, especially in these uncertain times. However, leaders must also keep an eye on the longer term. This is essential to ensuring the sustainability of performance in an uncertain future.

Nearsighted Leaders

Many leaders struggle to see beyond the short term – the performance of today’s products, technologies, channels, business models, etc. They are, in effect, nearsighted or myopic – that is, the condition where close objects are perfectly in focus while things in the distance appear blurred and difficult to see.

By necessity, leaders are myopic – they must focus on what is immediately in front of them. That is performance this quarter, next quarter and next year.

Today, slowing growth and growing market uncertainty are putting extra pressure on short-term performance. Consequently, Leadership Myopia is on the rise. However, there is a very real cost to short-termism.

Myopia is on the Rise

With increased pressure on performance it is difficult for leaders to see beyond meeting the number. As evidence of this pressure, almost three quarters of leaders in PWCs annual global 2023 CEO survey expect slowing growth1.

Moreover, when performance is most needed, there is growing ‘performance paranoia’, with some services suggesting that more than 50% of the workforce is ‘quiet quitting’.

As a result of the pressure on performance, leaders' eyes are locked on the spreadsheets and numbers, on driving productivity and efficiency, as well as consolidation and cuts.

Even the most visionary organizations have narrowed their gaze becoming more focused on the short term. Take Google and it’s famous ‘Moon factory’ which aimed at creating the technologies that would shape the future. In early 2023, as part of sweeping cuts at Google, it has been brought down to earth with a mandate to get commercial and focus on the now.

The increased focus on the short term can distract from longer-term goals. That includes those more innovative and transformational projects and initiatives that are key to longer-term success but do little for short-term performance. Indeed, in a resource-constrained world, such longer-term projects and initiatives may take from today’s performance requiring that the organization pay it forward and invest in programs and initiatives that sometimes may have uncertain future paybacks.

With an increased focus on the short term, many transformational initiatives have slowed or stalled. Others have been scrapped. In the busyness of the day-to-day, many strategic initiatives are taking place at ‘the side of the desk’. Starved of resources, they are increasingly relying on leaders to find a spare hour here or there. In this way, the bridge to the future is being dismantled.

Far-sighted Leaders

Leaders are continually reminded of the impermanence of success – the odds of any S&P500 company remaining in the top 500 list for a decade are no better than the toss of the coin2.

‘Only the paranoid survive’. That was the title of a best-selling leadership book in the late 1980s.  Which goes to show that concerns about an accelerating pace of change and the sustainability of performance are nothing new.

The clock is ticking on today’s cash cows, its dogs and even stars (to use the language of the BCG Matrix). As one of our coaching colleagues puts it: ‘Ok milk today’s products, channels, processes and technologies for everything you can, but be ready for when the milk runs out!’

Leaders must keep one eye on the future because, if they don’t, they are likely to run out of road regarding their present strategies, products, technologies, channels, etc. Moreover, with an accelerating rate of change, the future may be closer than it appears. The lifespan of products, technologies, market trends and organizations is shrinking. The danger comes not just from a better product but a new method of delivery, a new source of value, a new model or an ecosystem.

SOLUTIONS & SERVICES: Here are some of the ways that our research & insights are put to work by our clients:

  1. PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey []
  2. Scott D. Anthony et al., “Corporate Longevity Forecast: The Pace of Creative Destruction is Accelerating”, Innosight Executive Briefing, Jan. 2017) That is something that CEOs seem to feel intuitively, with nearly 40% of CEOs believing that their company will no longer be economically viable a decade from now, if it continues on its current path ((PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey []

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