Surfacing Critical Issues

Most companies are accustomed to identifying major internal issues, such as whether to build a business, divest an asset, or lay off people. What’s harder is the early surfacing of opportunities and threats arising out of external events such as dramatic shifts in demand, competitive behavior, industry structure, regulation, or the macroeconomic environment.

A commonsense approach to identifying such issues early is to poll, regularly, all of the company’s top managers to get them to identify critical issues they see emerging. Each manager should provide a rationale for why any issues raised are critical. A small team of senior executives should review all such issues, designating some as critical and highlighting others for continued tracking. As time passes, some of these other issues may become critical; others may become less relevant and disappear from the list.

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