How can executives prioritize their time to ensure that they are focusing on the countries and subsidiaries that need the most attention?
For executives running global companies, the challenge of keeping abreast of events in markets around the world is mind-boggling. The problem is not a lack of information — it is having the time and energy to process the information. How should executives prioritize their time to ensure that it is focused on the countries and subsidiaries that need the attention? Which markets should they emphasize, and which ones can they allow to fall off their radar screen? The authors researched executive attention at global companies for five years, interviewing 50 executives at 30 corporations including ABB, Dun & Bradstreet, Nestl_ and Sara Lee. They found that executives end up prioritizing a handful of markets at the expense of the others, but they don’t always select the most promising ones.
Because executive attention is so limited, executives tend to focus on the home market or on “hot” markets, always at the expense of other opportunities. The authors examine the nature of executive attention and identify mechanisms by which subsidiary companies attract attention from the top executives. Although attention can be harmful as well as helpful, the article focuses on the positive aspects. In particular, the authors focus on three elements: support, in terms of how headquarters executives interact with and help subsidiary managers achieve their goals; visibility, in terms of the public statements headquarters executives make about how the subsidiary is doing; and relative standing, in terms of the subsidiary’s perceived status vis-_-vis other subsidiaries in the organization.