Monitor Deloitte: The 2021 Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Survey

Corporate strategists unlock four new paths to growth

What is our strategy now? That’s the ask of chief strategy officers as a once-in-a-century challenge has placed some companies in survival mode while others have accelerated their growth agendas. Our annual report uncovers four pathways that Strategy functions can embrace to lead their companies into the future, expanding their roles into nontraditional domains, such as technology fluency, a 360-degree view of strategy, digital transformation, and corporate purpose.

Corporate strategists are navigating tectonic shifts

While the corporate strategy function is typically tasked with long-range strategic visioning and planning, in 2020, chief strategy officers (CSOs) found themselves rolling up their sleeves to help solve a series of short-term mission-critical challenges, from keeping plants running and the supply chain flowing to protecting cash positions and ensuring business continuity. For the corporate Strategy function, this dichotomy between short-term firefighting and long-term sentinel thinking has played out as one of the most critical dynamics to manage during the pandemic.

Now, as we enter the postpandemic period and beyond, the 2021 Chief Strategy Officer Survey findings show how the CSOs of today and tomorrow have expanded their typical areas of focus within their organizations, and how they have started to think about enhancing their capabilities in four nontraditional domains—technology fluency, a 360-degree view of strategy, digital transformation, and corporate purpose—to lead their companies into the future.

The strategic path forward

2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us. Businesses, governments, and society have been deeply affected around the globe in ways we may not even fully appreciate or even comprehend yet. CSOs, whether accelerating their companies’ growth agendas or fighting to stay afloat, played a critical role in managing through these crises. Their experiences, along with their multifaceted competences and the use of fresh tactics, tools, and methods, are ushering in a new era for Strategy, one that expands the function’s focus and embraces the need to drive digital transformation, address structural cost containment and reduction as a key strategic lever, and accelerate the purpose-driven imperatives facing organizations today. CSOs who incorporate these shifts into their ever-evolving role will emerge stronger, confident and prepared to lead their organizations in a postpandemic era.

About this survey

To better understand the evolving role of the Strategy function, Monitor Deloitte, the Strategy practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the Kellogg School of Management joined forces to conduct a survey of more than 250 CSOs and other senior Strategy executives. We surveyed executives from large and midsize companies, both public and privately owned, across a wide range of industries, in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

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