Aiming for the top

A guide for aspiring COOs and their organizations

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Building a strong, sustainable pipeline of future operations leaders ought to be good practice for any leading firm. This is clearly important for companies with existing COO roles. They need to ensure that strong successors are being developed and a robust pipeline of qualified and experienced individuals is in place. However, it also matters just as much for those companies that still split the operational responsibilities across several executives, or simply include it within the direct remit of the CEO.

Several factors will put increased pressure on those firms that still lack a dedicated COO position to create a standalone leader with responsibility for operations. These especially underscore a growing need for a clear operations leader, who can help oversee and drive the corporate response to today’s challenges.

Regardless of whether companies already have an existing COO position, serious consideration has to be given to how they define the scope, competencies and focus of the future.

Companies need to consider:

  • Setting out a planning framework for the COO role

    To ensure a successful approach, companies need to develop and implement a framework for understanding how best to fill, or replace, the position of COO. This process has several stages, and requires a range of key decisions:

    • Mapping out the gaps
    • Ensuring alignment with the corporate strategy
    • Defining the competencies and character profile
    • Weighing up internal versus external recruitment
  • Developing an internal COO pipeline

    For the position of COO, the breadth of the role requires close attention across a broad sweep of developmental areas:

    • Learning and education
    • Geographic and functional rotation
    • Coaching and mentoring
  • Hitting the ground running: making the first 100 days a success

    Whatever the situation, having mapped out a defined induction process for the new executive will make a huge difference in determining whether the transition is a successful one.

    Day 1 

    Start the process before Day 1
    Determine the key success factors with the CEO
    Get a fresh view on existing challenges
    Ensure open access to all key functional leaders and operational staff
    Put the new COO in touch with relevant external stakeholders
    Help to grasp the nuances of the corporate culture
    Advise on the politics of where they should focus their energies initially
    Give the new COO the space to make their own mark

    Day 100

    Remember that this new leader is also just a human being