How Today's CEO Manages Complexity
In 2010, IBM researchers conducted a study to figure what makes today's CEO tick.
The organization interviewed 1,500 CEOs worldwide to examine their priorities, uncover what sets the best organizations apart, and determine what's on their minds.
Researchers found evidence suggesting that managing complexity in today's fastpace world involves: promoting and leading with greater creativity, enhancing customer engagement, and being more nimble in the face of change.
Based on the information collected, researchers were able to identify success factors that help organizations thrive in today's market. They also made recommendations based on the findings for successfully capitalizing on the complexity of today’s work environment.
The study highlighted four key challenges and opportunities facing CEOs and their organizations.
The first element involves the ability to manage the level of complexity CEOs are facing. According to the study, more than 50 percent of respondents felt doubt toward their ability to manage office complexity. An estimated 79 percent of respondents indicated a belief that the current level of complexity will significantly increase in the future.
The second element involves the ability of the organization’s leaders to demonstrate ongoing creativity as a leadership quality. The study found that today's thriving organizations look for ways to shake up the status quo, break through long-held beliefs and legacy structures, and practice immediacy in decision-making and innovation.
The third element involves developing deeper engagement with customers in both a co-creative and integrative manner in order to develop and refine products and services. The most successful organizations reported an ongoing relationship with customers to draw upon more intelligence for innovative products and services, according to the IBM study.
The fourth element involves managing complexity through a focus on building operational dexterity. Thriving organizations that expect to deliver increased revenues quarter after quarter focus on simplification and continuous change, the study noted.
Managing Complexity: Recommendations from IBM
Boost Creativity. Based on the study's findings, IBM researchers suggest that CEOs cultivate creative leadership by making strategy development a continuous process. They recommend the re-examination of current strategy and proven approaches in order to unlock long-held beliefs; to experiment with new strategies that focus on the marketplace, not the conference room; improve speed of decision making and act, despite uncertainty; innovate through business model changes; transform the organization by finding, recognizing and rewarding creativity; and by leveraging new communication vehicles to encourage creative thinking.
Enhancing Customer Engagement. IBM researchers found that CEOs skilled in customer engagement were able to get closer to the customer. Doing this involves transforming customer data into action plans; collaborating with customers in order to gain and share more information about wants and needs relative to the products and services that are already offered; and focusing on price-value equations, measuring what customers value.
Developing Dexterity. Organizations that constantly re-examine their business models in an effort to improve value, flexibility, and speed tend to be more nimble and more successful at managing complexity than those that don't. To develop dexterity, IBM researchers recommend simplifying processes and ensuring easy-to-use customer interfaces; managing complexity by systematically keeping it “behind the curtain”; promoting execution that is fast and flexible; and identifying new growth opportunities constantly, both locally and globally.