Senior Executives Predict a Recession within the Next 18 Months but Lack Preparedness, According to Russell Reynolds Associates Survey
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October 22, 2019
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipFinancial ServicesBoard and CEO Advisory
Russell Reynolds Associates discusses its study about preparing for economic uncertainty
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Russell Reynolds Associates, a global leadership advisory and search firm, today announced the findings and recommendations from their study, Preparing for economic uncertainty: Are your operations teams ready? The study included input from over 500 key global C-suite executives to find out how concerned they are about a recession and whether that is translating into action. The study provides actionable insights that leaders can use to plan accordingly and emerge as winners during and after a possible slowdown. 

The need for preparation to navigate a potential recession is clear based on how companies have performed during previous recessions, yet the survey found that while 96 percent of executives believe it somewhat probable or highly likely that a downturn will materialize over the coming 12 months, only 8 percent of those surveyed reported feeling "well prepared" for this. 

"To counter a slowdown, one of the first steps CEOs can take to manage their business is to evaluate their operations, supply chain and finance functions," said Dr. Pascal Bécotte, co-lead of Russell Reynolds Associates' Global Operations & Supply Chain Officers Practice. "The downturn in 2008 illustrated that these functions were the first to be affected. COOs need to work with their CEOs and CFOs to ensure they look beyond just cost-cutting to pursue a balanced approach in order to recover more quickly following a recession." 

Looking specifically at the operations function, the survey revealed that only 8 percent of senior operations and supply chain executives feel they are personally well prepared to navigate through a downturn, and only 5 percent feel their team is well prepared. 

Russell Reynolds Associates recommends four critical steps for CEOs when preparing for a recession: 

Develop a plan with the COO: Operations executives must understand where potential weaknesses are in their supply chain and develop plans for their teams to follow during a crisis. 

Benefit from the unique position of the COO: COOs need to demonstrate the benefits of their unique point of view to the larger organization so that these plans can get the C-suite support they need. 

Identify gaps in the team: The disruption from a downturn will require talent to be comfortable with agility and to be nimble, empowered to act and be able to quickly respond. 

Address gaps with effective talent strategies, culture and leadership: Stress-test team capabilities to respond, execute plans, develop talent where needed and work toward the right culture for the team. 

Methodology 
Russell Reynolds Associates surveyed 534 senior executives—including 179 CFOs, 148 CHROs and 79 executives currently or previously responsible for operations and supply chain functions—at companies around the globe and across industries. The survey uncovered predictions around the impact and possible timing should an economic downturn occur, as well as the level of preparation among CEOs and their teams.