A manual advocates a return to a more classic mode of thinking about business.
In this book, the authors direct concerted criticism at the drastic increase in short-term thinking in the business and management world in the last two decades. They cite the boom in things like investment hedge funds that stress short-term gains and hence short-term thinking, pointing out that this phenomenon goes hand in hand with larger changes in corporate culture. The tenure of most executives is shorter now, they explain, noting the obvious result: “CEOs tend to focus on shorter-term objectives.” Carey (Talent Wins, 2018, etc.), Dumaine (The Plot to Save the Planet, 2008), Useem (The Leader’s Checklist, 2011, etc.), and debut author Zemmel have aimed their arguments at executives, directors, and investors, laying out the values of long-term thinking and highlighting both its risks and rewards. “One of the toughest challenges any CEO faces is staying focused on a long-term strategy while having to deal with short-term distractions,” they write. They provide several prominent examples of major corporate executives who risked short-term consequences for long-term gain: the decision of Ivan Seidenberg, when he served as Verizon’s CEO, to redouble his investment in the growth of his companies in the face of investors calling for selling off assets; the willingness of CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo to incur a short-term $2 billion loss in getting his chain out of the business of selling cigarettes; and the readiness of 3M CEO Sir George Buckley to restructure his company’s finances to increase its investment in its own future. The authors deftly use these and other cases to emphasize that long-term thinking and long-game investing and strategizing are not only more responsible, but also more profitable if they are done with daring and determination. The narrative tactic of grounding all this in real-world examples from business headlines pays off, and each chapter in the book’s first section ends with a useful “executive summary” outlining the key lessons to be learned from the individual cases. Considering the enormous harm that short-term investing has done not only to companies, but to countries as well, this book should be required reading in boardrooms everywhere.
A concise, powerful call for responsible, long-term business practices.