Gartner Research

Executive Pulse: The Search for Lasting Lessons From the Crisis

Published: 03 September 2020


Here’s a roll-up of pandemic-related executive sentiment and insights from thousands of functional leaders across the C-suite.

Fast word on tactics and concerns from thousands participating in our conference calls andpolls.

More detailed role-specific reports may be available on the website, depending on your subscription.

Corporate leaders across the organization are starting to gather the lessons of the 2020 crisis to be better positioned to withstand future shocks and pursue new growth. Some have already found ways to roll these takeaways into their operations, risk management and business model changes.

Can they execute? Chief strategy officers beginning their 2021 planning cycle tell us they wonder about that — in the face of an economy that may falter at any time, the possibility of a second wave of the novel coronavirus and rapid shifts in customer expectations.

Thirty-one chief strategy officers attending our recent webinar said the outside world was far from their only worry. They told us they faced a host of practical challenges inside their organizations as well, including:

  • Difficulties in communicating and securing consensus from executives about which growth opportunities to pursue.

  • Operational constraints at the business unit or product-leader level, even after investment decisions are made.

  • The combination of difficult, urgent work and fewer resources, given the prevalence of hiring freezes, layoffs and constrained budgets.

Can companies handle the next crisis? More than 6 in 10 of 290 surveyed business leaders from IT, HR, supply chain, finance and enterprise risk management thought their companies did well at convening a crisis management team, communicating with internal stakeholders about exposure and mitigation, frequently updating financial models and forecasts and monitoring critical metrics.

But fewer than half (47%) said their companies were very effective at assessing whether risk controls were working.

Organizations responded better to the crisis if they already had a strong risk culture in place, analysis of the survey results revealed. Important components include the ability to anticipate and evaluate exposures. Those with a strong risk culture are also more likely to use crises as an opportunity and accelerate strategic investments.

Figure 1. Organizations Risk Management Response to COVID-19

Now these crisis-management decision makers are focused on strengthening:

  • Operational resilience: 65% cited this as a top three priority and 27% placed it first.

  • Business model resilience: 56% said this made their top-three list and 25% placed it at the top.

  • Risk interdependencies and cross-functional response: 35% put this in their top three and 10% say it’s their organization’s top priority.

  • Scenario analysis and stress testing: 34% said it’s in the top three and 10% said it was first.

Figure 2. Top Risk Management Areas Organizations are Likely to Prioritize Because of the Crisis

To identify and implement steps to take moving forward, one communications executive conducted a virtual “lessons learned” workshop with senior managers, spending 30 minutes each on these five stages:

In a follow-up meeting, the group firmed up those next steps, agreeing to:

Compiled by Daniel Ryntjes

Contact with any questions or comments.

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Corporate Strategy Research Team

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