Corporate Eye

What’s On The Minds Of CEOs (Part 1)

I must admit, I have a strange hobby. I like to collect surveys of CEOs. But there is a benefit, I learn what issues CEOs say they are confronting. Now I would like to share some learnings from my hobby.

I will present summary results from four current surveys and indicate where you may obtain copies of the full surveys. Finally I will discuss items common in the surveys. Because of the length of the content, there will be two parts. This post will cover surveys from IBM and Forum consulting. The second post will cover PWC’s and CCL’s surveys and will include a summary review.

  • IBM’s “Global CEO Study”
  • Forum Consulting’s “Growth, Talent, and the Three C’s: A Review of Global Business Trends
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers’ “11th Annual Global CEO Survey”
  • The Center For Creative Leadership’s “Ten Trends”


Organizations are bombarded by change, and many are struggling to keep up. Eight out of ten CEOs see significant change ahead, and yet the gap between expected change and the ability to manage it has almost tripled since our last Global CEO Study in 2006.

CEOs view more demanding customers not as a threat, but as an opportunity to differentiate. CEOs are spending more to attract and retain increasingly prosperous, informed and socially aware customers.

Nearly all CEOs are adapting their business models – two-thirds are implementing extensive innovations. More than 40 percent are changing their enterprise models to be more collaborative.

CEOs are moving aggressively toward global business designs, deeply changing capabilities and partnering more extensively. CEOs have moved beyond the cliché of globalization, and organizations of all sizes are reconfiguring to take advantage of global integration opportunities.

Financial outperformers are making bolder plays. These companies anticipate more change, and manage it better. they are also more global in their business designs, partner more extensively and choose more disruptive forms of business model innovation.

Download the full report. You must register. An executive summary is available without registering.

IBM also offers a quick assessment that permits you to benchmark your company against the study.

Forum Consulting

Change: The New Equilibrium Organizations are faced with the challenge of executing growth strategies in a constantly changing environment. To respond, leaders focus on two related challenges:

  • Navigating Uncertainty: 92 percent of executives believe the challenges they face are more complex than they were just 5 years ago
  • Creating Agility for Sustainability: Agility is the organizational response to the uncertain and fast-changing global environment.

Collaboration: Common Goals, Uncommon Times Growth requires seamless communication and collaboration among many parties. And yet, technological, cultural, and organizational rifts stand to stunt that growth. To bridge these divides, leaders focus on three broad areas:

  • Bridging Divides: Cultural differences are often stumbling blocks, particularly for multinational companies (MNCs) expanding their reach into emerging markets.
  • Redefining the Term “Co-Worker”: Many companies will increase the number of their collaborative relationships with third parties, such as strategic alliances, over the next 3 years.
  • Using Web 2.0 Technology: Now, Not Futuristic: Web 2.05 technologies are used for both internal collaboration and as an interface with suppliers and customers, enhancing communication, collaboration, and intimacy among employees and the marketplace.

Critical Customers

Customers today have more information, more options, and more power than ever before, and they are increasingly demanding and critical of firms’ value propositions and behaviors. To maintain customers’ share of mind and wallet, leaders focus on three challenges:

  • Differentiating Through Customer Engagement: 80 percent of managers say their company delivers superior customer service, but only 8 percent of customers would agree. Perhaps this is because customers seek more than service-they seek a more customized, emotional experience as well.
  • Creating Processes and a Culture for Ongoing Innovation: Seven out of ten organizations experienced disruptive change over the past year. High performing companies strive to be the game changers, rather than scramble to react to the bold moves and ingenuity of others.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: The Web of Accountability: Driven largely by consumer outrage over unethical business practices, corporate social responsibility (CSR) instills ethical behavior that takes into account the well-being of the environment, communities, and employees. In 2000, 42 percent of executives and investors believed that CSR was a “central” or “important” factor in business and investment decisions. In 2005, that figure jumped to 85 percent

The Forum Report download is available without registration.

Note that change seems to be the overarching issue that CEOs are dealing with.

“We have seen more change in the last 10 years than in the previous 90.”—Ad J. Scheepbouwer, CEO, KPN Telecom

To be continued.

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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.