Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Excellent CEOs form a small group of trusted colleagues to provide discreet, unfiltered advice—including the kind that hasn’t been asked for but is important to hear. They also stay in touch with how the work really gets done in the organization by getting out of boardrooms, conference centers, and corporate jets to spend time with rank-and-file employees. This is not only grounding for the CEO, … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Exemplary CEOs combine the reality of what they ought to do in the role with who they are as human beings. They deliberately choose how to behave in the role, based on such questions as: What legacy do I want to leave? What do I want others to say about me as a leader? What do I stand for? What won’t I tolerate? CEOs answer … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Excellent CEOs increase their companies’ agility by determining which features of their organizational design will be stable and unchanging (such features might include a primary axis of organization, a few signature processes, and shared values) and by creating dynamic elements that adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities (such elements might include temporary performance cells, flow-to-work staffing models, and minimum-viable-product iterations).

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Vendors of workforce surveys like to say that employee engagement is the best measure of “soft stuff.” It’s not. While employee engagement indeed correlates with financial performance, a typical engagement survey covers less than 20 percent of the organizational-health elements that are proven to correlate with value creation. A proper assessment of organizational health takes in everything from alignment on direction and quality of execution … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Of the 50 most value-creating roles in any given organization, only 10 percent normally report to the CEO directly. Sixty percent are two levels below, and 10 percent sit farther down. Most surprising of all is that the remaining 10 percent are roles that don’t even exist. Once these roles are identified, the CEO can work with other executives to see that these roles are … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Resource reallocation isn’t just a bold strategic move on its own; it’s also an essential enabler of the other strategic moves. Companies that reallocate more than 50 percent of their capital expenditures among business units over ten years create 50 percent more value than companies that reallocate more slowly.

Scott Keller, Bill Schaninger

Many workplaces are characterized by competing agendas and conflict (no alignment on direction), by politics and bureaucracy (low quality of execution), and by the corrosive idea that work is “just a job” (a low sense of renewal). These aren’t just unhealthy for companies that want to deliver sustainable bottom-line results—they are unhealthy for the human soul. […] Healthy organizations, by contrast, unleash our potential and … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Bill Schaninger

Performance is what an enterprise does to deliver improved financial and operational results for its stakeholders. Companies evaluate their performance through financial and operational metrics such as net operating profit, returns on capital employed, total shareholder returns, net operating costs, and stock turn (and the relevant equivalents in not-for-profit and service industries). By contrast, health describes how effectively people work together to pursue a common … [ Read more ]

The Mindsets and Practices of Excellent CEOs

The CEO’s job is as difficult as it is important. Here is a guide to how the best CEOs think and act.

A Better Way to Lead Large-Scale Change

In Beyond Performance 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, 2019), McKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger draw on their 40-plus years of combined experience, and on the most comprehensive research effort of its kind, to provide a practical and proven “how to” guide for leading successful large-scale change. This article, drawn from the book’s opening chapter, provides an overview of this approach and explains … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

[Books often] say that you have a limited period to achieve full productivity as a leader and that if you don’t make it in time, you are doomed. The evidence doesn’t support these claims: 92 percent of external and 72 percent of internal hires take far more than 90 days to reach full productivity.14 Sixty-two percent of external and 25 percent of internal hires admit … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

Every leader should mount a transition in two equally important stages: first take stock and then take action by asking questions about five basic dimensions of leadership—the strategy and operation of the business or function, the corporate culture, the team, the leader herself or himself, and other stakeholders that need to be managed. Beware of generic answers because every leader’s starting point is different. For … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

Organizations most often try to help newly appointed leaders by supplying them with mentors or informal “buddy” networks. Yet only 47 percent of external hires and 29 percent of internal ones find these helpful. Standard orientation programs are the second most common approach, but only 19 percent of externally and 11 percent of internally recruited executives consider them effective. Some methods—for instance, tailored executive coaching … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

To most leaders, the speed and flexibility that drive innovation lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from standardization and centralization, which promote efficiency and control risk. Not so. Rita Gunther McGrath’s research sheds light on agile organizations. Large companies that raise their income disproportionately, she found, have two main characteristics: they are innovative and experimental and can move quickly but also have consistent … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball pits the collective old-time wisdom of baseball players, managers, coaches, scouts, and front offices against rigorous statistical analysis in determining which players to recruit. Analysis wins, changing the game forever. Could the same be true for recruiting top talent?

When the National Bureau of Economic Research looked into this, it pitted humans against computers for more than 300,000 hires in high-turnover jobs … [ Read more ]

Three Attributes to Diagnose Organizational Health (Performance Isn’t One of Them)

Many factors help determine the health of a company and performance is only one of them. Just because your company is performing well doesn’t mean that there aren’t unhealthy symptoms elsewhere. Learn to diagnose your company and implement the right strategy for its health and success.

Social Pressure Is a Better Motivator Than Money

There is a simple motivational incentive that is often overlooked: Moving beyond the ‘market contract’ with employees and forging a stronger ‘social contract’.

The Irrational Side of Change Management

Most change programs fail, but the odds of success can be greatly improved by taking into account these counter-intuitive insights about how employees interpret their environment and choose to act.

Carolyn Aiken and Scott Keller

Research by a number of leading thinkers in the social sciences, such as Danah Zohar, has shown that when managers and employees are asked what motivates them the most in their work they are equally split among fve forms of impact—impact on society (for instance, building the community and stewarding resources), impact on the customer (for example, providing superior service), impact on the company and … [ Read more ]