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Exploring the Inner Circle: Insights from the Global C-suite Study

November 08, 2014


Submitted by Jon Busman, CMO Initiative Global Marketing Lead, IBM

How well do the members
of the C-suite work together?

New technologies are blurring the physical-digital divide and transforming the way people interact. So CxOs are gearing up for huge changes in how their enterprises engage with customers. Prior reports have focused on steps you can take to help your enterprise serve digitally empowered customers more effectively and how CxOs in different roles are tackling these imperatives. But how well do the members of the C-suite work together? And why do certain C-suites excel?

What gets in the way?

Analyzed from more than 6,500 comments on what makes or breaks a C-suite, the roadblocks fall into three categories.

  1. Practical constraints: One of the biggest practical problems is lack of time. Many CxOs also say they need more accurate information, faster, to help them make better decisions.
  2. Shortage of qualified people: Other issues have more to do with recruiting CxOs with the right experience and mindset. The digital revolution is placing totally new demands on a generation of executives who grew up in the analog era. But finding good new candidates can be difficult, especially for enterprises in growth markets.
  3. Cultural impediments: Cultural obstacles — such as “power games” and an “alpha male” management style — are another challenge, and disputes over funding often exacerbate the tensions.

What makes certain C-suites stand out from the crowd?

  1. The best C-suites are a “broad palette” of specialists: Ensuring there’s a diverse mix of skills in the C-suite as a whole has far more impact on performance than ensuring the individual members have broad interdisciplinary experience.
  2. Collaboration is the key criterion: The ability to collaborate is the most important factor, though, and how the members of the C-suite collaborate is as significant as the extent to which they collaborate. It’s crucial not to get too comfortable with each other, CEOs warned.
  3. Purposeful Partners” fare best: Collaborate widely and expect to collaborate even more extensively. They also collaborate with a specific goal in mind: to stimulate innovation.

What’s the solution?

One thing is clear: we’re going through momentous changes— changes that, in some respects, are turning back the clock

For centuries, most people knew everyone they traded with, and the products they bought were handmade, often to order. Digital technologies are now reviving this way of life, with online “villages” where customers can share ideas—with each other and with the businesses that serve them. These same technologies are providing an increasing array of tools to craft personalized offerings.

In an interconnected world, collaboration is vital for success. That includes collaboration with customers to co-create, co-produce and co-market goods, services and experiences; collaboration with employees, partners and suppliers to push the boundaries of innovation; and collaboration within the C-suite itself to deliver a coordinated response.

“What makes a top-performing C-suite? Collaboration, not consensus.”CEO, Energy and Utilities, Australia

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To see the deep dive for CMOs, visit:  Stepping up to the Challenge: CMO Insights from the Global C-Suite Study

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