Posted: 03 Nov. 2022 5 min.

Why we’ve launched a COO Transition Lab

Topic: Operational Excellence

To me, there isn’t a more exciting role in the organisation than the COO: Being responsible for core business transformation and change management, steering the organisation through times of disruption, bringing one’s experience and expertise to manage transitional change. And taking an increasingly innovative and strategic role as the organisation prepares for the future.

The role of the COO is constantly evolving – just like markets evolve, technology evolves, and business requirements evolve. While yesterday’s COOs were striving for operational excellence, tomorrow’s COOs will increasingly have to see around corners and position their companies for sustained success, driving their organisations’ growth agenda in much bolder ways. To do this, COOs will need to harness the power of digital technology to explore new strategic possibilities, reset cost structures, identify new market opportunities with greater level of precision and ultimately build new sources of competitive advantage.

Stepping into the COO role – whether from a lower management position or from an outside organisation – is a tough game. Building senior executive relationships from day one, implementing strategic business decisions and driving large scale transformation is a tall order for newly-appointed COOs of all backgrounds, and especially for those appointed externally.

A robust 180-day plan

In response to the diverse, complex and changing role of the COO, Deloitte has launched a global COO Program, part of which includes a one-day COO Transition Lab. These Transition Labs are not only designed for first-time COOs, but also for experienced COOs moving industry or organization, and COOs looking to refresh their priorities and plan objectives in their current role, e.g. following change in leadership or a change in strategy.

Whatever the background, a lab is a confidential space at this critical moment of one’s career to get feedback on the COO role and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Doing this, participants will have the opportunity to take time out to consider their role, and to experience moments of insight when new understanding or awareness is acquired.

Drawing on our experience from our COO Transition Labs, here are five important aspects to consider as a new COO before creating a your own 180-day plan for success:

  • Step 1: Define your aspirations. As a new COO it’s important to quickly ask the questions: What do you want to be remembered for? What legacy do you wish to leave behind? Carrying this torch requires long‐term vision that keeps the business strategy in sight, but too often, the urgent crowds out the important, and the things that really matter get set to one side. Start by aligning where you want to go, with where the company needs to be. Then, decisions can be made about the priorities that will advance the larger vision for which you will ultimately be remembered.
  • Step 2: Beware of how you spend your time. As a new COO, there will be endless demands on your time. In our experience, the most successful COOs determine early how to balance their time and energy across the roles of being a catalyst for innovation; a strategist defining a modernized business model; a steward of effective governance and risk management; and an operator embedding continuous improvement throughout the organisation. Start by taking a 360 degree perspective on your role, your time and your priorities.
  • Step 3: Define your key priorities. As a new COO it’s important to reflect on which key priorities will determine your success. This is best done through a systematic approach, looking at alignment between stakeholders’ expectations, the wider organization’s strategy and the desired legacy you wish to one day leave behind.
  • Step 4: Assess your team and talent issues. Getting to the heart of talent issues quickly is at the centre of every successful COO transition story. Figuring out which team members will advance your priorities is critical and needs to occur in an unbiased environment. As a new COO, you will have to address questions such as: Who are your go‐to people? Who are your flight risks? Which resources can you use for your priorities? What skills do you need to move your priorities forward? Who can you develop vs. replace? Where can you settle for B‐team people? And in general, how will you recruit and retain talent?
  • Step 5: Examine relationships and influence. For any new COO, managing relationships is key, and your success will depend on having a robust plan. Right away, you want to establish relationships with people who matter, and then consider the major issues you will be facing with them and how these could be tackled. As a minimum you will have to explore critical stakeholders’ agendas and their level of support for you. You will most likely also have to identify what strategies can be used to successfully influence them, and learn to adapt your communication style to maximise your personal authority and impact.

Finding your focus

In taking up the role as COO, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the task ahead, or to lose sight of your goals amidst the many distractions. Recovering failing projects, tackling struggling operations and delivering on financial objectives can be critical activities; and juggling detailed operational issues with strategic thinking and transforming the business can stretch even the most time-proficient leaders.

There is neither a standard definition for the COO role nor a magic formula for success within it. The COO role is challenging, diverse and can be difficult to define; however success is hugely rewarding and often a natural stepping stone to a future CEO position. Spending time to develop an understanding of your priorities, mandate and personal growth journey is a crucial first step to achieving success.

Forfatter spotlight

Tore Christian Jensen

Tore Christian Jensen


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.

$(document.head).append(''); $(document.head).append('