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Just out of pure curiosity, what exactly does a COO do and what is the typical path to becoming one? Is it basically a supply chain management on steroids or what? Also, since they deal with six sigma and things like that, do you have to be an engineer to become one?
COO is a role for which results have been decidedly mixed. Basically, it is to optimize all relevant business metrics - whether it be on-time departures or first time claims adjudication or batch yields. Usually the other charter is for cross enterprise improvements when there are several individual operating companies (e.g., FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx International, etc). There in lies the problem -- the COO sometimes does not have the accountable resources to do the actual work as they reside within the operating companies themselves. So while a needed/understandable role, the power is in the business units which makes it hard to execute on the COO agenda, as it will have inevitable tension w/business unit priorities.
Easy way to look at it. COO deals with everything that keeps the company running internally ( R&D, Marketing, supply chain, HR etc.), CEO deals with everything that affects the company externally (Shareholders, Media, Business relations, Partnerships etc.)
I think this is a pretty tough quesiton to answer. The way I look at it is a COO basically streamlines the operations of the company, ensuring that when other people get in the door, efficiency and work can be met. I think, depending on the industry, COO can arise from all sorts of level, unlike a CFO whose traditional path is via Finance/Accountant. I work for a big pharma and our COO has a undergrad degree in the sciences and that's it.
That is pretty accurate. Where I work (manufacturing company) the COO is also the president and pretty much runs the day to day business...the CEO is dealing with the the overall direction of the company. So I would say the CEO is the captain of the ship who says where it is going and the COO is the chief mate who is in charge of getting the ship there. A lot of companies the COO is next in line, its not necessarily an operations roll but it can be. I know our COO is very informed and involved in how well various plants are operating.
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