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Today's Chief Operating Officer: Driving Increased Value For Organizations and CEOs

OTTAWA, Sept. 2, 2014 /CNW/ - The role of the chief operating officer (COO) in today's business world is typically dependent on the unique characteristics and business needs of each organization. With a clearly defined role and scope of responsibilities, the COO can be a valuable addition to an organization's executive team, particularly as the CEO's second-in-command, as outlined in The Conference Board of Canada's new briefing, The Role of the Chief Operating Officer: Helping CEOs Drive Value .

"The role of the COO continues to evolve, and, in many organizations, the scope of the position has expanded" said Ian Cullwick, Vice-President, Leadership and Human Resources Research. "Not only are COOs expected to excel at the operational level, but they are increasingly required to help define, translate, and implement corporate strategy" said Cullwick.


  • In today's dynamic economic environment, the role of the COO varies widely across industry sectors and is often misunderstood
  • As a critically important position, COOs are taking on more strategic responsibilities and, in many cases, are viewed as a potential successor to the CEO
  • Emerging COO responsibilities allow CEOs  much needed time to focus on longer-term and external priorities
  • The role of COO serves multiple functions and may be instituted or eliminated at specific times in an organization's evolution.

COO role clarity and value-added are essentially found in the division of work and relationship with the CEO. With the COO supporting the CEO on internal matters and directing the short- and medium-term operations of an organization, the CEO is able to focus on longer-term and external priorities.

Along with leveraging and executing aspects of CEO workload and developing as a potential CEO successor, the COO can add value to an organization in a number of other ways. While day-to-day operational management is traditionally within the scope of the COO's activities, the role of the COO has broadened to include a focus on enterprise-wide strategy implementation and, in some instances, administrative leadership.

The position of COO may be created or eliminated at specific times in an organization's development, including during transformation, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and major projects.

The briefing also contains an appendix featuring detailed descriptions of the twelve participating organizations that helped inform the research. In the eight instances in which these organizations had a COO, the scope of role along with their executive team structure is detailed.

This publication is available to subscribers at


SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

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