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CEOs Value Excellence Over Profit, Survey Reveals

The Conference Board's 2007 report suggests executives are also becoming increasingly aware of the crucial role that people play in growing their companies.

CEOs place more importance on excellence in execution than profit, according to a new global survey.

The Conference Board announced Thursday that the majority of 769 CEOs it polled said that excellence in execution takes precedence over steady top-line growth, which ranked second on the priority list. Consistently executing strategy by top management was the third concern globally.

In general, excellence in execution relates to those business practices that improve quality, obtains higher yields, faster throughput, and less waste.

"This year's overall top challenge shows that CEOs from around the world are realizing that strong execution is a critical factor in driving profits and revenues," Jonathan Spector, president and CEO of The Conference Board, said in a prepared statement. "These executives are also becoming increasingly aware of the crucial role that people play in growing their companies."

CEOs in Asia said finding qualified managerial talent is their most pressing concern, with 38.6% percent naming it. Their counterparts in Europe and the United States ranked finding qualified managers as their sixth greatest concern.

The Conference Board said that overall survey responses from Asia showed several differences.

Chief executives in Asia are more focused on seizing opportunities for growth in China (fourth place) than their counterparts in Europe (19th place) and the United States (20th place), according to the survey. CEOs in Asia ranked expanding into India as their 10th priority, while their European counterparts ranked it 27th for their European counterparts and their U.S. colleagues ranked it 30th. CEOs from Europe place more emphasis on getting new, responsive ideas out sooner, while speed, flexibility, and adaptability are highly valued.

Finding qualified managerial talent took sixth place among American CEOs, while top management succession took seventh place. The Conference Board predicts that competition for talented managers will become even more intense as many baby boomers move from management into "third-stage careers" and retirement. After ranking seventh last year, the challenge of employee healthcare benefit costs slipped out of the U.S. top 10 in 2007 to 16th place, something The Conference Board attributes to successful cost containment.

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