A recent piece in The Economist cites a study by Rajesh Chandy, a professor at the London Business School, who concluded that corporate leaders spend only three to four percent of their time thinking about long-term strategy. The rest of their days are filled with meetings, client calls, putting out fires and dealing with compliance issues, among other things.
It would be difficult to say that any of these tasks are unimportant. Still, some leaders are more effective than others, and the higher your perch in the organization the farther your horizon should be. Spending just three to four percent of your time on corporate growth strategy sounds pretty dismal, especially when you consider that no one else inside the company is likely to be investing any more than that.
As shocking as Chandy’s statistics are, they seem to ring true, and in one case may have been overstated–one unnamed respondent cited in the article said he didn’t need to set aside more time for thinking because, “You can hire McKinsey to do that for you.” Good thing he was unnamed, or his board would likely have already hired McKinsey–to search for a new CEO.
Instead of pointing a finger, however, most of us might plead guilty as well. We all may want to spend a little less time hunched over our laptops and smart phones and a little more time looking skyward.
Steve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of “When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What To Do About It.” Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at http://twitter.com/stevemckee.