6 priorities for CEOs this year

Complexity may be the enemy of progress when it comes to crucial decisions at the top. Here's why more CEOs need to cut through complexity to make it in 2017.

For the past two decades, CEOs have been largely positive about the contribution of globalisation to the free movement of capital, goods, and people. However, this year’s PwC CEO survey revealed growing scepticism from business leaders on globalisation’s impact on mitigating climate change or bridging the gap between rich and poor. This is similar to the public’s view on these issues in a separate consumer poll commissioned by PwC of over 5000 people in 22 countries.

Only 38 per cent of the public believed globalisation has had a largely positive impact on improving the movement of capital, people, goods and information, compared with 60 per cent of CEOs.

>Read: UK CEOs confident despite rocky economic outlook

According to Colin Price, the co-author of a new book launched at Davos, Accelerating Performance: How to Mobilise, Execute and Transform with Agility, globalisation is the king of complexity and an obvious target for popular discontent.

Price believes there are six key areas of challenge that CEOs face and various different approaches which can be taken to mitigate the risks of complexity.

A master of time and space

Today’s most adept CEOs can warp back in time and learn from the past, deliver in the present and project into the future all at once. To be able to time-travel and see around the corner, take in the bigger picture and join the dots, whilst ensuring things get done in the here-and-now is key to managing complexity.

Who says that’s true?

CEOs and Boards have to sift a vast array of information from multiple sources and decide what is true/what is not in so called ‘post-truth’ era. This complex task of discerning and prioritising information is essential. Truth vs lies; ‘experts’ vs the mob; fake news vs authentic reporting – are all symptomatic of the same dialectic in an increasingly muddled and complex world.

What’s the top priority when everything is a priority?

When you are CEO, everyone has an agenda which is their top priority – add to that multiple key stakeholders from customers, to employees to shareholders and NGOs. Prioritising the priorities in an increasingly uncertain and business environment is yet another complexity that CEOs have to juggle.

Foot on the accelerator

Speed is one way to escape complexity. For example, a car accident can be avoided by accelerating your way out of trouble. However, CEOs have the challenge of balancing speed and risk. Discernment is key if you are using the accelerator codes to help navigate and manage complexity. Competitive advantage is an illusion – now it’s about reducing time to value.

Grey, white and black all at the same time

Effective leaders are under pressure to think differently and have to look beyond and/or through shades of grey to solving problems and creating positive synergies. However, smart thinking is not as easy as it sounds when the onus is on finding a quick solution. Heidrick & Struggles research shows that the most effective leaders encourage their teams to move from black and white into transcending paradoxes and devise smart ways of achieving both things at the same time.

Riding the waves of change

Ripple intelligence is a good complexity busting tool CEOs can use to ‘run the race’ – while also keeping abreast of the complex multiple and interdependent changes happening in the world and their own sectors and industries. It is also essential to be able to understand how these factors interact and play out and simultaneously.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.