How do CEOs manage their time? The winners of the 60th annual HBR McKinsey award explain

Viewed in McKinsey

We read lots about CEOs, but how does a CEO actually spend his or her time? It is a question that confounds even some of the world’s top business management experts.

One such example is Michael E. Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, who forthrightly acknowledged a decade ago that “we had little understanding of what CEOs actually do.”

But this humble acknowledgement from a professor at one of the world’s elite business schools led to a hugely constructive end. Together with colleague Nitin Nohria, also a Harvard Business School professor,

Porter launched a study designed to answer the question. The two collected and analyzed 60,000 hours of data from 27 CEOs over a decade, which culminated in a major Harvard Business Review article, “How CEOs manage time.”

What did  Porter and Nohria find? Among the CEOs they monitored, they spent 25 percent of their time on “functional and business unit reviews,” 25 percent on “developing people and relationships,” 21 percent on “strategy,” 16 percent on “matching organizational structure and culture with the needs of the business,” and four percent on “mergers and acquisitions.”

McKinssey and Company has now recognized the article’s importance, awarding Porter and Nohria its 2018 HBR McKinssey Award, which is given annually to the authors of the best Harvard Business Review article of that respective year.

When one of the world’s leading management firms finds an article in one of the world’s leading business publications the best of the year, it’s probably worth reading.

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