Harvard Business Review - October 2009 by Harvard Business Review

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Harvard company evaluation October 2009

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They hold managers to a high performance standard, but if something comes up that puts their profit plan in jeopardy, they can protect their profit targets without forcing managers into actions that put the firm at risk. Of course, operating managers have always built slack into their budgets, and they always will. But the problems with this kind of secret padding are widely documented and indeed are part of the reason that many people favor high debt levels; it leaves less room for such padding. These problems largely disappear, though, if you make the slack explicit and transparent.

In the 1800s many cultures in Arizona and New Mexico vanished because they depended on a few crops that couldn’t survive changes in the environment. ••• One of the myths about capitalism is that it is about incentives. It is also about disincentives. No one should have a piece of the upside without a share of the downside. However, the very nature of compensation adds to risk. If you give someone a bonus without clawback provisions, he or she will have an incentive to hide risk by engaging in transactions that have a high probability of generating small profits and a small probability of blowups.

Only 70% of the sample said they would take the flight. In both cases, the chance of a crash is 1 in 1,000; the latter formulation simply sounds more risky. Providing a best-case scenario usually increases the appetite for risk. Always look for the different ways in which risk can be presented to ensure that you aren’t being taken in by the framing or the math. 6 We are taught that efficiency and maximizing shareholder value don’t tolerate redundancy. Most executives don’t realize that optimization makes companies vulnerable to changes in the environment.

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