Chief Operating Officer – Definition

Cite this article as:"Chief Operating Officer – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 10, 2019, last accessed October 29, 2020,


Chief Operating Officer (COO) Definition

A chief operating officer is the second-ranking executive job position in a company. A person who holds this title is the second in command, after the chief executive officer (CEO). This means that a chief operating officer (COO) reports directly to the CEO. Some organizations use the term, “vice president of operations,” instead of COO. Another title similar to COO is, “Director of Operations,” a title commonly used in Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs).

A Little More on What is a COO

The role of COO and CEO may seem confusing especially in the organization where there is no clear structure. However, in larger organizations, the responsibilities of these two positions are clearly defined.

For instance, in a company with these two positions, the CEO is usually tasked to oversee the successful implementation of long-term goals. On the other hand, the COO has a responsibility of overseeing the company’s daily business operations. He or she is also tasked to report the progress of projects to the CEO. The reporting may be monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually activity.

In a typical setting, the entrepreneurial experience that the COOs possess is usually more than the CEO. This is because the CEO only develops plans, while it is the COO who is supposed to oversee the implementation of these plans. The COO is also supposed to support the human resource to come up with a strong team. Therefore, only a COO with vast experience can be able to manage all these responsibilities effectively.

Institutions where COO can Work

Individuals with appropriate training, skills, competencies, and experience may have a privilege of working in various institutions like;

  • Business institutions
  • Government entities
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Universities/Schools

Duties and Responsibilities of a Chief Operating Officer

Generally, there are no specific responsibilities for a COO position. The duties vary from one organization to the other and how the position is also defined. Below are some of the typical tasks of a chief operating officer:

  • Implement strategies established by senior management.
  • Support the chief executive officer to achieve the company’s mission and goals.
  • Offer assistance to an employee, who the company would rather not lose by promoting his or her capabilities in the company.
  • Overseeing the company’s daily business operations to ensure they are successful.
  • Foster a work environment and ensure that it is success-oriented.
  • Motivate and lead a team to ensure that it performs high.

Education and Experience

Education and experience are part of the requirements for one to be considered for a COO position. One will require possessing a bachelor’s degree as a minimum education requirement. The degree can be in any related field, however, most organizations prefer candidates with a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA).

Work experience in the company’s industry is also a requirement. An ideal candidate for this position an experience of over 10 years working in the company. He or she should have moved up the ranks within those years. Also, he or she should have held a senior managerial position for at least five years.

Chief Operating Officer Key Skills

Apart from education qualifications, a competent COO should also possess various qualities. Some of these qualities include the following:

    • Strategy: They must think strategically. Be creative and able to manage innovation effectively.
    • Good Communication skills: Should be able to communicate well in both written and spoken
    • Excellent decision-making skills: A competent COO is that who can effectively make decisions.
    • Leadership skills: A good COO should possess excellent leadership skills. Ability to lead and supervise a team effectively.
  • Good finance Knowledge: Should have knowledge in the management of finances.
    • Result-oriented: A chief operating officer must be able to focus on a project and achieve results.
  • Ability to delegate duties: Should have the ability to delegate duties effectively.


Salary of Chief Operating Officer

The Chief Operating Officer is the second senior-most position in the company’s ranks, which makes it have a competitive salary package. However, the salary package for COO varies based on various factors such as:

  • The organization one is working for. Larger organizations tend to offer a high salary package to their COO compared to smaller organizations.
  • Area of expertise.
  • Level of experience.
  • Individual responsibilities.
  • Level of education.
  • Certification.

Basically, a company with both CEO and COO positions is expected to have a clear reporting structure with clearly defined roles. If the roles are confusing, there will be a power struggle between the two executives, making them dysfunctional. This will also create confusion among the employees. A good relationship between the two is key in ensuring that a company realizes its goals. The two executives will focus on their roles without interfering with the other.

Reference for “Chief Operating Officer” › Insights › Company Insights

Was this article helpful?