McKinsey Quarterly

McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 2: Overview and full issue

This issue of the Quarterly, available here as a PDF download, asks what it takes to lead a people-first organization, shows how senior executives can get more comfortable with complexity, and explores digital tools to link top talent with a company’s strategic opportunities.
Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 2 (PDF–3.7MB).

This issue of McKinsey Quarterly will be the last published during my tenure as McKinsey’s global managing partner. Over the nine years I have been in this role, I have been privileged to meet with more than 2,000 CEOs and senior government and social-sector leaders around the world. I always ask the leaders I meet two questions: First, what advice would you want to give to your younger self? Second, what are the top two or three issues on your mind now? The articles in this issue of the Quarterly tackle two of the most common topics I hear in response to these questions: talent and leadership.

Nearly every leader says talent is his or her company’s top priority, but what does it mean to be a talent-first CEO? A few years ago, I began collaborating with two thought leaders who have also wrestled with that question: Ram Charan, who counsels many CEOs and boards and who has written on a wide range of business topics; and Dennis Carey, the vice chairman of Korn Ferry. This issue’s cover story, “An agenda for the talent-first CEO,” distills some of the core insights from this work. In the article and in our new book, Talent Wins, we argue that putting people first needs to be much more than a slogan. Leaders who want to make talent a competitive advantage need to manage their human-capital allocation with as much rigor and focus as their financial-capital allocation—which requires an elevated role for the chief human-resources officer, who must work closely with the CEO and CFO in what we call a “G3.” This is one of a number of topics—including identifying the “critical 2 percent” that drive most of the value of the company—that we explore in this article.

Our second theme is leadership—more specifically, the demands placed on leaders in an increasingly complex world. Today’s top executives arguably face greater cognitive and emotional stress than they might have in previous generations. In “Leading with inner agility,” my colleague Johanne Lavoie and her coauthors have created a handbook for leaders seeking to become more mindful and more in touch with their own complexity. Johanne and her coauthors offer some practical suggestions and examples, such as the CEO who, newly unencumbered by the need to provide a quick answer to every question, learns to become a deeper listener, thereby stimulating the empowerment and creativity of her colleagues. I hope you will find these practices intriguing and useful.

Digitization and the growing importance of data and analytics are of course on every leader’s agenda—and also offer fresh solutions to perennial talent and leadership problems. New digital tools can help link top talent with the company’s most valuable strategic opportunities and can support improved real-time performance-management systems to replace outmoded and bureaucratic year-end performance-review processes. You can read about these approaches in two other articles in this issue, “Linking talent to value” and “The fairness factor in performance management.” And don’t miss “Will artificial intelligence make you a better leader?,” a case study of a leader who applied AI to help resolve an ambiguous leadership challenge—and in the process became not only more effective but also more sanguine during a difficult time.

Finally, I am excited to announce a new digital service reserved for McKinsey clients and for our firm members, one aimed at helping readers consume Quarterly content when on the move. In some sense, the Quarterly has always been a “mobile” publication; its distinctively slim profile slips easily into a carry-on bag for a flight or long commute. That said, we recognize that there are other mobile platforms—specifically, phones and tablets—where our readers frequently consume content. The new McKinsey Quarterly Pocket Edition offers a set of concise executive summaries and other highlights tailored for consumption on smartphones. As with the print Quarterly, clients will receive the Pocket Edition four times a year.

On a personal note—it has been my honor to serve as McKinsey’s global managing partner over the past nine years, and I want to thank all of the Quarterly readers for your engagement, insights, and support.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 2 (PDF–3.7MB).

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