CEO Today - September 2023 Edition

This January, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 explained: “Present and future risks can also interact with each other to form a ‘polycrisis’ – a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such that the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part.” In addition to dealing with a polycrisis, the dark clouds of a potential global financial crash are looming – so it’s understandable that anxiety levels are rising. But perhaps a calmer mindset is required to lead in a world where change is the only constant. Indeed, as historian Niall Ferguson said of the concept of a polycrisis: “It’s just history happening.” Leaders must break free from the traditional, outdated ways of leading, where personality, rigidity and instinct are too heavily relied upon. Today’s best leaders have a clear-eyed view and – most importantly – the courage to trust in people, process, and technology to revamp operating processes and make smarter decisions for a better tomorrow. They must plan not for perfection but for change and volatility. The good news is that the solutions are there for those brave enough to do the right thing. Proactive and adaptive longterm planning In this milieu of uncertainties, the secret to surviving and thriving lies in bold, courageous leadership underpinned by a strategic vision that embraces innovation and technology. The way forward is Integrated Business Planning (IBP), a common-sense process led by leadership and designed for effective decision making. When implemented correctly IBP becomes the backbone of a robust and agile business strategy. We see and hear the need for constant planning from the CEO community. There is a thirst for data, but leaders often don’t have the correct information at the right time without a robust, panoptic system. Over-thinking or attempting to achieve a perfect plan is a common mistake, especially when external factors smudge long-term visibility. The “financialisation” of business strategies – worrying about maintaining stability in the current financial year, let alone setting long-term goals – tends to lead to disconnections and, ironically, increases costs while sinking reputations. Leaders must prioritise creating a dynamic organisational environment capable of quick response and adaptation over designing for perfect reporting. In a world where economic shifts and technological innovations happen at an unprecedented pace, leaders need to foster a proactive, not reactive organisational culture. This requires developing a planning environment capable of adapting to a shifting landscape. The real challenge is to turn these potential pitfalls into stepping stones to the company’s ultimate goal. Successful implementation of IBP necessitates the right blend of people, process, and technology. Organisations must avoid falling into the trap of “digital debt”, which results from a reliance on outdated technology and processes. Clare Barclay, Microsoft UK’s CEO, expanded this theme when she took to the stage at London Tech Week in June. She argued that to take advantage of new technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence, and – more critically – build a culture of innovation that allows an organisation to remain relevant, leaders must be careful not to be bogged down in non-essential tasks. Avoiding digital debt Barclay cited Will AI Fix Work?, a report published in May by Microsoft, and noted almost two-thirds (64%) of all workers “don’t have enough time or energy to do their jobs. They’re challenged and overwhelmed with the pace of work, burnout, and a lack of productivity. I don’t know if anyone feels like that sometimes? I know I do.” She added: “Put simply, the pace of work is outpacing our ability to keep up. We call this deluge of information ‘digital debt’, sapping energy, slowing down the ability to think clearly, and severely impacting thinking for innovation.” IBP can revolutionise and simplify decision-making across the organisation from the top down. Yet imple-

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