The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest position within a company. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is the second in command and reports directly to the CEO. Depending on the structure of the company, the CEO may report to the board of directors, investors, or founders. The COO is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a company. The COO's role is to lead the execution of strategies developed by the senior management team.
In some cases, a COO may be appointed to assist the CEO in managing the complexity and scope of their work. The COO is usually responsible for delivering results on a daily and quarterly basis. The position of COO is not present in all companies. It is more common in companies with a high level of operating activities, such as manufacturing companies. At a broad level, the COO is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company.
However, the specifics of their role depend heavily on the CEO and the company's requirements. The COO is at a level below the CEO and everyone except for them reports to them eventually. They strategize with other executives to implement ideas that move the company forward and reduce costs. In some cases, presidents, vice presidents, or executives who represent different branches or areas of the corporation may report to a director of operations. The CEO determines what tasks are handled by the COO. Operations executives work closely with CEOs and can ultimately succeed them when they retire or quit.
The CEO's managerial strengths and weaknesses may affect what an operations executive oversees, but they are ultimately responsible for it. The CEO can also delegate responsibility for overseeing other executives in various departments to the operations executive. The evolution of office technology and organizational structures have made it easier for senior executives to manage day-to-day operations. A COO must anticipate how strategic plans and market forces will affect operations in coming months and years. In senior management, there are three prominent positions: CEO, COO, and CFO (Chief Financial Officer). This is why COOs are almost ubiquitous in operations-intensive companies such as airlines and automotive industries, as well as organizations operating in hypercompetitive markets such as high-tech companies. When exploring career paths, it's important to understand what makes a successful COO.
Operations managers are highly visible and powerful due to their inherent talents and organizational position. When Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle, separated from its chief operating officer Ray Lane in 2000, it inspired breathless reporting. The employer or CEO generally determines the scope of supervision of the chief operating officer regardless of their title. Understanding what makes a successful COO is vital because their effectiveness is fundamental to many companies' fortunes. A VP of Operations plays a more hands-on role with their operations team and their daily work. About 6 or 7 years ago when exploring career paths, I deeply immersed myself in Executive Assistant, Chief of Staff, and Chief Operating Officer roles.