Corporate Hunger Games: Keeping the edge at work

As Katniss Everdeen found, you need the commitment of those around you to stay alive

Learn to embrace risk and make sure staff aren’t being overstretched.

Businesses need to work harder than ever before to sustain themselves. And that means leaders must be judicious, leaving deadweight and obsolete projects behind to open up capacity for new growth initiatives. Their employees cannot strive for victory while they lack sufficient mental bandwidth – and time – to progress.
If, as an executive, you want your company to grow, you must become the Katniss Everdeen of the business world. In the corporate Hunger Games, the companies that are brave, tenacious and determined are the ones that will succeed.
Based on our work with hundreds of companies, we have distilled a few Hunger Games-inspired lessons for those seeking to push past the competition and position themselves for victory.
“Here’s some advice: Stay alive.”
To stay alive — let alone grow the business — executives must broker strong alliances. This requires the deep commitment, dedication and focus that Everdeen has. CEB research shows that executive teams with strong alignment and executive commitment to a new growth investment produce nearly 40 per cent greater returns on those growth investments. In contrast, misalignment in the boardroom severely limits an organisation’s ability to make executive decisions and support new growth strategies – dramatically reducing potential returns. Everdeen kept her focus, but staying alive required not only her commitment to the cause, but the commitment of those around her.
“You’ve given [people] an opportunity. They just have to be brave enough to take it.”
Companies must also embrace the right kinds of risk. Under the appropriate circumstances, risk goes hand in hand with growth opportunities. Business leaders who try to manage all risk out of existence stifle growth in the long run.
As things stand, businesses risk losing up to 50 per cent of potential cumulative cash flow on new growth investments, because they fail to properly execute new strategies, making good on their biggest and riskiest bets. As in the Hunger Games, playing it safe doesn’t keep you alive – in fact, you are even more at risk of being cornered.
“Whatever happened in the past is in the past. And no one in this arena was a victor by chance.”
When faced with major decisions, businesses must act efficiently. These days, companies often struggle to implement their corporate strategies. According to our research, 88 per cent of staff believe their workload has noticeably increased in the past few years, to the point where they have far less capacity to put in the discretionary effort that is essential for new growth.
Executives must give business and functional managers the authority to end the old, fruitless projects that consume resources, and which prevent employees from focusing on the new objectives necessary to successfully execute new strategies.
Marc Austin is head of strategy research at CEB.

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