I drew this cartoon partly in response to two studies that came out this week. They seemed to capture the mixed signals that businesses are grappling with as they look at 2023.
The Deloitte “CFO Signals” report partly tracks the risk aversion of CFOs over time. Deloitte found that only 29% of CFOs say this is a good time to take greater risks.
This is the lowest point since the second quarter of 2020 (27%), which was the lowest since they started tracking in 2015. The average of the last two years was 50%.
At the same time, a new study from AlixPartners found that 98% of CEOs and senior execs say they need to “overhaul” their businesses within the next three years.
There is a simultaneous pressure to both stay the course and completely change everything.
Reflecting some of this tension, the AlixPartners study found that 85% say they don’t know where to start to make changes.
Simon Freakley, CEO of AlixPartners, observed:
“The pandemic forced business leaders to come to terms with the inevitability of disruption, but as we have seen subsequently, that was just a dress rehearsal…
“For those who move decisively and at pace, there is a tremendous opportunity to adapt and thrive amid the relentless disruption.”
Simon pointed to a difference in how “growth leaders” perform versus the rest of the pack. Growth leaders take action in spite of the risk-aversion they may feel.
As he put it:
“Those who remain slow to action will get left further behind, while those who have a bias for action and see opportunities will build an unassailable lead.”
As we enter 2023 with eyes wide open to the risks, it’s good to remember that playing it safe can also be risky.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: