What Keeps Companies Up At Night?

Structural changes are happening to companies everywhere and leaders must learn to examine businesses with both a microscope and a telescope, says the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer for Booz & Company Tom Stewart.
  • Transcript


One of the things that I think has poleaxed CEOs is that they are simultaneously looking through a microscope at every nickel, at every penny of cost.  And they say, I want a single-minded focus on cost.  Well, at the same time they are all recognizing that this recession is so big and so deep and so broad that it is changing industry structures.  Look at automobiles, look at financial services, look at retail, look at just about every industry.  We're re-shuffling the deck and re-dealing the cards and re-bidding what suite is trump.  There's going to be structural changes in every industry.  

So to go back to the other metaphor that suggest simultaneously having to be looking through the microscope at your cost, and looking through the telescope at what your future is going to be, that's kind of a difficult thing for anybody to do.  

And I think some thing similar is involved in the sustainability issues.  Obviously the first question about the sustainability of a company is, am I alive?  Securing liquidity and making sure that I have the resources to get through what is going to be several more months at least of suppressed demand and difficult times.  So, the first thing is that liquidity and the survival question.  And I think most people mostly dealt with that.  To some extent now we're like survivors of an earthquake.  The whole, everything is falling down, the walls are gone, and we emerge from the rubble and say, "I'm alive.  Now what?"

And then I think there are two streams of activity.  One stream of activity is, how do I get and stay operationally fit?  The second stream is, how do I get strategically strong?  

Operational fitness is not the same as being lean and mean.  When I think about operational fitness, one of the ways that we like to think about and I like to think about it is, what are the capabilities I have that, given the markets I'm in and the way they're changing, what are the capabilities I have that give me a right to win?  And what I want to do is I want to invest in those capabilities and extend those capabilities.  And I want to disinvest from everything else in so far as I can.  Obviously, there's some things I have to do just to keep the lights on, but in so far as these things are not part of my right to win, let me divest from them, and put my energy in my right to win driving capabilities

Card: Five Questions for a Carbon-Constrained World.  

The first of those questions is: What will be the effect of a carbon-constrained world be on my income statement, on my ability to grow, on my revenue and so on and so forth?  

The second is: In a carbon-constrained world, what will the effect be on my balance sheet, on the value of my assets, on my risk profile and so on and so forth?  

The third is: What opportunities are presented to me by a carbon-constrained world that might not be there otherwise?  

The fourth is: What are the implications of this kind of environment on all of the stakeholders with whom I deal, whether those who are my employees or my customers or the regulators, and all the stakeholders around the company? 

And the fifth is: What can I do, or what can we do as an organization, to reduce our own greenhouse admissions and become ourselves a low carbon business?