No Time For Strategy

Are business leaders becoming slaves to the clock?

You can never outwork a problem," A.G. Lafley said in an interview soon after he became chief executive of Procter & Gamble in 2000. "You have to outthink it."

That sounds good in theory. Unfortunately, in real life, CEOs rarely have the time they would like to outthink problems, craft strategy, develop themselves into better leaders and recharge their overdrawn batteries.

Leading an organization has always been a demanding job, but now the demands have become more pressing than ever, forcing CEOs to be on call 24/7. The twin culprits driving the change: the exploding volume of communications coupled with the removal of traditional filters that once shielded CEOs from the hurly-burly of daily business operations. Flattened organizational pyramids and the push for greater transparency put leaders much closer to the action, with the play-by-play being dictated by a constant barrage of gotta-answer-now voicemails and emails. Jeffrey Killeen, CEO of GlobalSpec, the world's largest database for industrial suppliers, estimates that on an average business day, he receives anywhere from 100 to more than 200 new emails—"and I think that's pretty normal" for most senior executives, he says.

When you are in that position, with too many committments and too much email, it is tough to find time for strategic thinking. I think good leaders have people they can trust to take care or more and more details, so they themselves can do what they are good at – defining the direction of the company.