small change: your COO, or you

small change
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success


Blog 33  small change: your COO, or you

your coo

your coo on ops board

Your COO (or you) is your Chief Operating Officer and sits on your operating board and, in some companies, sits on your main board along with your CEO and CFO.

The role and purpose of your COO is to keep your organisation’s promise with your customers. Nothing else, in my view.

I know that’s controversial as many boards like to say that their COO “runs the business day-to-day” and their CEO “does the strategic stuff”.

This is tosh IMHO, because:

  • Your CEO “runs the business day-to-day”; they can’t duck that, I’m afraid. Try as they might.
  • Your boards and people working in your organisation need to be in do doubt who is boss – it’s the CEO. Full stop. Your COO reports to your CEO. Your COO is not some joint CEO-type-person. Write a woolly COO job specification and you are begging for trouble and endless politics.
  • People like to drive a wedge between the COO and CEO if they can. Don’t be doing with that. Total waste of time.
  • The “strategic stuff” is meaningless management-speak
  • A strategy is merely how your organisation will achieve its purpose. It consists, usually, of one line as in: “our strategy is to grow by rapid acquisition, globally”
  • Everyone on your operating board is involved in the implementation of the strategy, not just your CEO
  • But only your COO is responsible for customer satisfaction
  • If your customers are unhappy call your COO. Only one point of contact. One point of control. Only one person can or should fix it.
  • In the old days, they would be called Head of Production or Head of Services.
  • Today they are heads of “delivery”. [Side note: “delivery” is the one word I have tried to stop using but can’t. I wrote to Lucy Kellaway when she was the doyenne of eliminating management-speak at the Financial Times to ask her advice. “Never” she replied  “should the word delivery appear in a sentence in which a van does not also appear.]

So, is the role and purpose of your COO (or you) in your organisation clear and crisp or is it part of the problem on your operating board? Be honest.


Ciarán Fenton




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