A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a COO that I have known for quite some time. We spoke about transformation and about exploiting new technology and new operating models to achieve certain business results – topics that are quite typical for me to talk about.
But increasingly, our conversation turned to talent and diversity. His point was simple: When COOs devote their time to the operations, technology and innovation agendas of their companies, they should equally devote time to the people that will make these ambitions come true.
I agree with this view: Whereas in the past, many COOs have had a clear mandate to prioritise efficiency in operations above other considerations, the COO of the future will need to adopt a more considered approach coordinating, leading, hiring and managing diverse talent, and by doing so becoming the ambassador for a forward-thinking and innovative organisational culture.
A changing role
As we all know by now, the diversity agenda is on everyone’s lips, and many things are starting to progress. Just this month, along with many other companies, Deloitte signed the Gender Diversity Pledge created by DI, the Confederation of Danish Industry, that represents around 18,000 companies in Denmark.
The pledge is built around 16 core principles: We believe that diversity makes us smarter as a company. We perceive diversity as a key competitive factor. We see equal opportunities as a prerequisite for being able to attract and retain the best talent. We believe that the business community should take the lead. We will create a new story about the leadership role. And we will have an inclusive approach to minorities’ perspectives – just to name a few of those principles.
For many COOs, these principles are well-known, but new to their own leadership agenda. I’m not saying that there is a standard definition for the COO role nor a magic formula for success within it, but in my mind there is no doubt that we will see more and more COOs take on the talent, diversity and culture agendas to make their transformational aspirations come true.
Here are at least five ways in which the role of the COO could slowly be changing towards a more people- and diversity-focused role:
The role of the COO is undergoing far reaching change, creating a unique challenge to define what it should now be. It is no longer sufficient to manage business-as-usual operations. In today’s rapidly evolving and digitally-driven environment, COOs must drive business modernisation to deliver true end-to-end value.
The diversity agenda is just one of many transformational agendas for COOs today, but surely an important one, and one with a huge potential to pivot the organisation into a new era of meaningful value-creation.
The diversity pledge is of course just the first step. Action has to come next.
As a part of the Strategy & Operations practice Tore has worked with analysis, development and implementation of operational strategies. Tore has deep experience with aligning business models to changing market demands through optimisation of business processes and aligning systems, organisation and governance accordingly. He has industry experience from manufacturing, transportation, consumer products and energy. His main focus is on on the operational core processes but he also covers administrative support processes. As a program manager Tore has been leading transformation projects for international clients heading multiple parallel projects and reporting directly to executive committee members. His responsibilities cover everything from initiating assessments, identifying opportunities for improvement to building business cases and following up by designing solutions and driving teams through implementation.