The DNA of the COO

Managing change, shaping strategy

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In the same way that CEOs and business founders require entrepreneurial skills to devise new business ideas and create a culture of product and service innovation, the COO must also be “intrapreneurial.”

Besides taking the responsibility of the diverse day-to-day operational demands, COOs in many companies handle larger business transformation initiatives and have become a driver of strategy.

A mastery of change management is therefore a core part of the role for many, and often even how the position was secured in the first place. The willingness to embrace change requires COOs to be comfortable making decisions.

Extent to which COOs are measured on the following criteria:

Extent to which COOs are measured on the following criteria

(Percentage of respondents who have chosen 9 or 10 on a scale from 1 = not at all to 10 = absolutely)

The new “go-to” person for transformational initiatives

Half of COOs polled are closely engaged in discussing the role that operations can play in business transformation, and 57% see this as a key part of creating value for the organization. Taking responsibility for such initiatives is a key part of how the COO can make the shift from a wholly operational perspective to a more strategic one.

The need for business transformation can also be a driver for appointing a COO in the first place. Earlier in 2012, Nokia Siemens Networks created a new COO role, specifically to take responsibility for the “transformation of the company’s mode of operations and business performance management,” as the firm described it.

In such a position, the COO controls the allocation and prioritization of corporate resources and assets to achieve the strategic goals. Once a decision has been made, he or she must ensure that the right resources are in the right places.

There is also a strong link between this aspect of the role and people development. COOs must, therefore, be deeply involved in talent management.

Joining the strategic inner circle

COOs may need not only to master operational excellence, but to become a driver of strategy as well. This switch in focus also highlights a dichotomy in the role of today’s COOs.

On the one hand, they must focus their attention on the here and now. This demands a deep involvement across the company’s operations to ensure that they are performing at the optimal level.

On the other hand, they must find the space to shape longer-term strategy, because they are best placed to assess the company’s readiness.

Extent to which COOs actively engage with the board on key issues

Extent to which COOs actively engage with the board on key issues

(Percentage of respondents who have chosen 9 or 10 on a scale from 1 = does not apply to 10 = fully applies)

The DNA of the COO - Time to claim the spotlight

 
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