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Ram Charan: 4 Key Thoughts For What Comes Next

In a well-received cover story for Chief Executive magazine, as well as a series of memorable online and in-person masterclasses, Ram Charan has spent the bulk of his year trying to help members of the C-Suite not only survive the current inflation but also prepare for what comes next.

Now, Charan has gone further, taking all of this great thinking and putting it together in an exceptional, no-nonsense new book: Leading Through Inflation and Recession and Stagflation, which goes on sale today, Nov. 29.

It’s essential reading for anyone who is managing an organization—or even part of an organization—in this tricky time. It’s blunt, action-oriented, based on actual experience and, above all else, useful. From pricing and procurement to executive communication and leadership techniques, it sets the bar for practical leadership advice about our current moment.

As publication date neared, I reached out to Charan for his thoughts on where we go from here and get some tips. Here’s some of what he has on his mind these days:

  • Modular Budgeting. Get your top people together and sketch out budgets for a deep recession with continued inflation, as well as variations—then shift through the plans from good to bad or bad to good, based on how the year unfolds. “This way,” says Charan, “you create the progressive module in your mind with the team and say, ‘We are going to start with the lowest case, and if the conditions improve, we are going to put in some more dry powder, and we are going to increase our penetration. But at the same time, we are looking for acquisition of talent and acquisition of companies.’"

  • Focus on Six People. Charan has repeatedly told me that he thinks the great underweighted risk in business right now is the potential impact of a handful of autocrats: President Xi, President Putin, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Iran's Ayatollah. “The world is being almost held ransom by these four autocrats,” says Charan. Also closely follow President Biden and Fed Chairman Powell. Really try to deepen your understanding of all of them, their behaviors, their patterns, to help get an edge in seeing what may be coming next, says Charan. “I want every leader to watch the conversations among these six people, the coalitions they build, what good things, bad things they create, because it has an effect on currencies, it has an effect on prices of energy, availability of energy, food and the decision-making.”

  • The Big Goals. “When this storm subsides,” says Charan, “you should be thinking of minimally doubling your shareholder value in a period of 6, 7 years because the total GDP of the world will change in 7 years or 8 years to roughly 30 trillion, and its composition will change. In terms of stakeholders, you have to see the issues of sustainability. You should experiment now, you should search for talent now, you should find new technologies now, and say, ‘What are the areas we are going to focus on that will include the issues of sustainability and that which relate to climate change?’”

  • Don’t Lose Track of the Future. “The smartest thing is mental flexibility and being able to make moves in a shorter period of time to adjust when they see either a downturn or an upturn,” says Charan. “Always keep both eyes on cash and customer and brand. And then, as the world changes, you will see some people failing, you will see some new segments emerging. Have a separate team that's looking beyond three years and seeing how demographics change, how behaviors change, how new technology, new ideas and new research, new algorithms—how do we hitchhike and create new opportunities, new revenue growth? Keep the mind to basics, not some fancy stuff.”

It was another fascinating conversation, and I’m grateful for it—and for his new book. I hope you find it useful as well. Read the full article >

Dan Bigman, editor, Chief Executive.

From our partner: 

Automation can help you fight the downturn. Economic headwinds are blowing, but there are tools that can make you dramatically more competitive today. From time savings to greater insights to wider flexibility, automation is an ally during challenging times.


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Recession tools. To ride out the economic downturn, turn to data. But business leaders don’t need to collect more—they just need to analyze what they have, both internal and external, and put those insights into action.

Gift card tips. Gift card programs can be great tools for consumer-facing companies, especially this time of year. But to do them right, you need to keep in mind a number of compliance and customer service challenges.


  • World trade slowing. The goods barometer calculated by the World Trade Organization has sunk below its trend levels, in another signal that the global economy is weakening. (The Guardian)

  • Inflation and pay. As inflation has dipped and there has been more conviction that the peak in higher prices is in for the U.S. economy, C-Suites have begun to at least ask the question: When will it be okay for standard cost of-living adjustment-linked pay raises to go back down again? (CNBC)

  • Zero-based budgeting. Some finance chiefs are looking for ways to bring expenses down permanently, while also putting their companies in position for opportunities ahead. (WSJ)

Navigating the 2023 Downturn: An Online Leadership Series
December 15 | January 25 | February 22

The CFO Network
December 1 & 2, 2022 | Orlando, FL

PE-Backed Leadership Summit
December 6, 2022 | Nasdaq MarketSite, New York and Online
Keynote: Greg Brenneman, Executive Chair, CCMP Capital Advisors; Lead Director, The Home Depot; Former CEO, Burger King, Continental Airlines, PwC Consulting

Advanced Compensation Strategies to Drive True Business Performance
December 15, 2022 | 1:30 – 4:00 pm ET | Live, Online
Featured Speaker:
Verne Harnish, bestselling author and author of the business classics Scaling Up and The Rockefeller Habits

Advanced Pricing Strategy for Powerful Profitability
January 25, 2023 | 1:00 – 3:00 pm ET | Live, Online
Featured Speakers:
Jonathan Byrnes, Senior Lecturer, MIT, author, Choose Your Customer; Adam Echter, partner and pricing strategist, Simon-Kucher

Tackling 2023: A Masterclass with Ram Charan
February 22, 2023 | 1:00 – 3:00 pm ET | Live, Online
Featured Speaker:
Ram Charan, World-renowned business consultant, speaker and bestselling author Leading Through Inflation

Leading Through Stagflation: Ram Charan’s Essential CFO Guide

Beyond Blind Spending: Building Expense Transparency for the Downturn

Remote Yet Aligned: How to Manage Finance Teams in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

It’s Not Just Where You Deploy Capital — It’s How You Do It

How Real-time Visibility and Automation Power the Modern Finance Leader

Measuring Sustainability to Create Value

VISION 2030: Preparing for the Future of Work, the Workforce and Workplaces

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