21 Mar Why the COO Role Isn’t What It Used to Be
For a long time, the role of the COO was pretty standard: improve efficiency, develop productivity strategies, and work with the rest of the C-suite to ensure vision and mission align with operations.
Then, COVID happened.
Today, the COO still performs all of the above-mentioned duties—but there’s an element of adaptability and malleability that needs to be incorporated in a post-pandemic business world. A recent article I read on the “changing role of the COO” agreed, noting:
“Changes to the workplace and the pace of business post-pandemic, together with rising customer expectations, require stamina, resilience and contagious positivity,” states Abigail Vaughan, COO for HR and payroll specialist Zellis. “It feels like we’re awakening from hibernation. And as the COO you need to help wake people up as fast as possible to avoid being left behind.”
The New Face of “Crisis Management”
It’s not uncommon for a COO to come in and serve as a “crisis management” expert. I’ve done it more times than I can count. COVID serves as just one example of the ever-changing business landscape.
One really critical piece in times of crisis—whether it’s something like a pandemic, inflation/recession fallout, or just needing to right a singular company’s ship before it’s too late—is breaking down silos.
“To maximize the impact of change, all areas of the company need to work together on the same things. Otherwise, siloes and frustrations arise and not only do your own employees become disengaged because it feels difficult to get things done, but your customers become aware of it,” cautions Vaughan.
That last part is critical. It’s one thing for a COO to help triage internal operations, it’s quite another to do so before the customers start to experience the dissonance. We all know what that can lead to (and it’s not pretty).
Adaptability Is Key
Finally, one cannot understate the adaptability piece of the puzzle. In the same article, Simon Nolan, senior partner at executive search firm Page Executive, notes, “The pace of change is unrelenting. The mark of a successful COO is one who can move with the times and implement new skills needed for their business.”
It’s important for any COO who comes in to help has a diverse set of skills they can incorporate into the rapidly-shifting business landscape—whether it be financial, operational, industry-specific, or any other area of expertise.
Considering all this, might you need some help in the COO area? The good news is, most companies don’t actually need the assistance of a full-time COO. Fractional COOs are a viable option to meet the demands of today’s post-pandemic environment.