Shanghai Daily

Chinese executives: We should have been more agile

Chinese executives: We should have been more agile

Chinese executives believe they waited too long to respond to the global downturn and that poor decision-making affected their firms' performance.

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Chinese executives: We should have been more agile

Chinese executives believe they waited too long to respond to the global downturn and that poor decision-making affected their firms' performance.

These are just two of the findings from Bain & Co's global survey of executive views on business trends and management tools.

Nearly 100 executives from China's mainland participated in this year's survey, providing new insights into how they think their companies are handling the global economic downturn—and where their organizations ultimately are headed.

Based on more than 1,400 survey responses from around the world, our findings reveal both common themes and distinct differences across regions and industries.

Four in 10 Chinese managers surveyed feel their firms delayed reacting to the financial crisis, a considerably higher number than for other Asia Pacific country executives.

Two-thirds of the Chinese executives surveyed believe that unclear decision-making authority is hurting their company's performance. By comparison, less than half of the Indian managers surveyed felt this way.

Chinese managers surveyed are optimistic about the long-term, but are very concerned about the short-term. Seven out of 10 Chinese managers are very worried about meeting their growth targets for 2009, compared to 63 percent for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

And when asked if they're planning for the downturn to last until early 2010, a full 70 percent said yes. By comparison, only 56 percent of Indian respondents agreed.

But even as Chinese executives worry about their short-term financial outlook, they are optimistic about the long term. Seventy percent of Chinese managers expect to use the recession to improve their firm's competitive position.

Chinese managers, like respondents worldwide, think that the economic turbulence will have a long-term impact. As a result of the downturn, seven out of 10 Chinese executives expect more government regulation of businesses over the next five years—something that could impact Chinese firms operating overseas and multinationals in China.

In such a turbulent economy, respondents believe long-term success will depend on a company's ability to adapt, not only to new regulations, but also to shifting market conditions.

Eighty-two percent of Asian executives indicated that international growth will be vital to their performance over the next five years.

And the figure is even higher—88 percent—for Chinese respondents. This compares to 72 percent of the Indian executives.

In North America, the number drops to just 55 percent, illustrating the extent to which Chinese executives still see significant growth beyond their borders. Innovation is another way that Chinese executives hope to expand their businesses during the worst downturn in their experience.

Even though they are focused on short-term financial pressures, 85 percent of the Chinese respondents agreed that innovation is more important than cost cutting for long-term success. That percentage is in line with the rest of Asia.

In North America, only 67 percent of executives stressed the importance of innovation over cost-cutting—a possible sign of the impact they're feeling from the downturn.

Phil Leung and Larry Zhu are partners in Bain & Company's Shanghai office. Michael Thorneman, a partner in Shanghai, heads Bain's China practice. The views are their own.


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