business news in context, analysis with attitude

Good piece in the New York Times over the weekend about how, "in normal times, there are few words that C.E.O.s like more than 'certainty.' Certainty allows executives to issue sales forecasts with oracle-like conviction. Certainty instills leaders with the confidence they need to invest $500 million in a new factory, or spend $20 billion buying a competitor. Certainty gives them the verve they need to preside over virtual town hall meetings with their employees and discuss race relations, furloughs, remote work and more.

"But at companies large and small, new and old, public and private, 2021 was a year that played havoc with expectations. Through it all, C.E.O.s swapped some of their favorite tropes — timelines, confidence, strategic plans — for something new: saying 'I don’t know.' Or even:  'I changed my mind'."

In the retailer community - which was being roiled by change even before the pandemic -  the challenges were especially great, as front line employees found themselves on the front lines of a public health challenge like nothing the nation had faced in over a century.

KC's View:

The uncertainty, of course, originated with the pandemic … but now business leaders are faced with a range of issues and degrees of uncertainty that have fallen like dominoes  - supply chain problems, labor shortages, labor demands, remote work environments, and so on.  And with every passing day, and every new headline and public health recommendation, these C-level executives are having to make things up as they go along.  Which is hard.

Seems to me that one of the things that this moment of time demands is greater understanding from the stakeholder community - the people who shop and work at these retailers have to be more accepting of problems being created by this uncertainty.  I'm a big proponent of retailers taking care of their front line employees because they are the real, tangible connection to the shopper.  But I also think that, while labor has found this to be a moment at which workers can push for higher wages and benefits, this also is the time to find common ground and some level of appreciation for what the other side is going through.  It is, of course, a two-way street.  But comity would be a nice change.