A Stakeholder Approach to CSR

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Managers know that raising net income is likely to be harder than cutting assets and head count. To increase the numerator, top management must have a sense of where new opportunities lie, must be able to anticipate changing customer needs, must have invested in building new competencies, and so on. So under intense pressure for a quick ROI improvement, executives reach for the lever that will bring the fastest, surest result: the denominator. The United States and Britain have produced an entire generation of managers obsessed with denominators.

In fact, they usually can identify a range of potential outcomes or even a discrete set of scenarios. This simple insight is extremely powerful because determining which strategy is best, and what process should be used to develop it, depend vitally on the level of uncertainty a company faces. What follows, then, is a framework for determining the level of uncertainty surrounding strategic decisions and for tailoring strategy to that uncertainty. No approach can make the challenges of uncertainty go away, but this one offers practical guidance that will lead to more informed and confident strategic decisions.

Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. W. Norton, 1991); Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff, "The Right Game: Use Game Theory to Shape Strategy," HBR JulyAugust 1995. System Dynamics. Peter N. Senge, Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 1990); Arie de Geus, "Planning as Learning," HBR MarchApril 1988. Agent-Based Models. John L. Casti, Would-Be Worlds: How Simulation Is Changing the Frontiers of Science (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997). Real Options.

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