The C-Suite’s 2023 Outlook on Crisis Preparedness

The Conference Board 2023 Outlook

What's on the minds of CEOs this year?

The Conference Board shared the C-suite’s 2023 outlook on crisis preparedness on January 25th. Like me, you are probably interested in knowing what is on the executives’ minds. I recommend watching the on-demand webcast and reading the report. It is a window into senior leadership strategy this year. Importantly, as a Resilience professional, it is helpful to understand their view of risk and strategic objectives driving 2023 business decisions.

If you aren’t already familiar with The Conference Board, you should be. It is particularly relevant if you work for a large corporation or rely on one for your supply chain or services. The organization is a worldwide think tank that’s existed for over a hundred years. They regularly survey their members and engage experts in various areas to provide timely information to businesses globally. For the latest report, they shared what Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and their direct reports are most concerned about for 2023. For our purposes, I will focus on the aspects most relevant to resilience programs. 

Uncertainty Rules the Day

On the edge

In many ways, businesses continue to be on the edge of disaster in 2023. Geopolitical instability, the economic downturn, the war for talent, and sustainability initiatives are all focus points for leadership teams. Spearheading this effort, the potential to make a misstep in any of these areas could be crippling to organizations in such a tight market and with thin margins for error. The benefit of The Conference Board is understanding leaders’ thinking that drives internal decision-making.

As practitioners, we must be connected to the pulse of leadership strategy. Not only does it help provide direction and shape resilience programming, but aligning to organization-wide objectives is a must. Keeping an organization resilient requires constant vigilance by keeping abreast of shifts in leadership perspective and goals. I think you all know this. However, leveraging data from groups like The Conference Board provides a worldwide view that can help drive benchmarking and initiatives. 

Keep to your North Star

Resilience is a tool

As I outlined in my Thoughts On NOAA Billion-Dollar Weather And Climate Disasters, resilience is not a panacea; it’s a tool. One of our jobs as professional leaders is to think outside the box. And yes, natural disasters remain the number one threat to business disruption. However, from a CEO’s perspective, the risk landscape is much broader. They expect crisis teams to be ready for severe weather incidents. 

Extreme climate events are factored in on their list of fifteen risks for crisis preparedness. However, fourteen other indicators are called out. Besides cybersecurity and public health concerns, food shortages, high inflation, and armed conflict make a list. So, I ask you–are they on your risk map for 2023? If not, they should be.

Even if your organization exercises or prepare for these risks directly, it is wise to bring them into future scenarios and plan as influencing factors. Part of the beauty of resilience programming is planning for the unexpected and building an agile framework. Use these non-traditional elements as force multipliers to create a more agile organization.

The Wolves of Wall Street

Crisis and the Big Bad Wolf

The C-Suite’s 2023 Outlook on crisis preparedness is helpful because it acknowledges the need to engage in an ongoing effort to mitigate risk. In Crisis And The Big Bad Wolf, I talk about the importance of companies planning for known threats. But, I also explain that we need to plan for Snow Leopards-those rare events that, unlike Black Swans, we never see coming—understanding that what we traditionally consider major crisis events–office fires, data center outages, or infectious disease outbreaks may not align with what keeps CEOs up at night is vital. 

Instead, we must pivot to align with leadership’s strategic goals and recognize what they perceive could waylay those objectives. Indeed, the specter of terrorism and vital supply-chain disruption is on their minds. Yet, so is war–the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and potential outbreaks between major world powers-not something found in many of our recent playbooks. Recession, financial instability, and high inflation may not immediately signal a crisis event but consider downstream effects. Effects could lead to workplace violence, civil unrest, and insider threats. 

Resilience Professional Insights

Key takeaways from the 2023 Outlook

The Conference Board’s survey data indicated that the C-suite is confident that it can handle crisis events similar to what it most recently addressed. From a strategic perspective, they feel well-positioned to handle cyberattacks and global health crisis events. Of course, all companies responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, for cyber security vulnerabilities, companies’ leadership has dealt with attacks or heavily invested in exercise protocols. In many cases, leadership was exposed to both.

It’s understandable, then, that C-suites have a high degree of confidence in their ability to address these two potentially catastrophic events. The survey also demonstrated that executives are enabled to address financial crises. However, it uncovered that CEOs are pessimistic about their team’s ability to handle other risks that their companies hadn’t recently faced. Natural disasters may be the bread and butter for most crisis management teams from a response perspective, but executive officers are concerned about much more. And they are thinking about major, extreme events that have the potential to sideline critical operations. So, even with mixed opinions on the duration of the economic downturn, it is prudent to plan against worst-case scenarios. 

Global Resilience Goals

Continue to prepare-for anything

Along with this, companies are preparing for continued economic fluctuations ahead. The Conference Board’s Global Economic Outlook states, “The 10-year economic outlook signals a prolonged period of disruptions and uncertainties for businesses, but there are also opportunities.” The news is not all bad but speaks to the need for vigilance on our part. Additionally, the Outlook report indicates that “With some foresight and investment, the impact of crippling disruptions and grey swans can be minimized by reducing risk exposure and taking preventative measures.” 

Our value to the businesses we serve is to anticipate risks to the industry through horizon scanning and identifying threats. Next, the Board indicates to expect a worse-than-expected operating landscape in 2023. Our mission this year is to assist the business by preparing them for interruptions within this landscape to maximize their resilience posture. Finally, we must continue to engage, exercise, and report to leadership so that positivity basis and complacency do not set in post-pandemic.

Do you agree with my suggestions? Let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know if you liked the content and if you learned something new. I always want to know if I am providing value to my readers.

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