What is the role of a COO?


The job of the chief operating officer is one of the key jobs in an organisation. It is the second in command. It's a role that significantly impacts how an organisation operates.

The chief operating officer(COO) is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the company. They oversee the operations, finance, human resources, marketing, and other departments. The COO ensures that the company meets its goals and objectives. They must be able to work with various departments to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

The job description of the chief operating offers can vary from company to company. For example, in some organisations, the chief operating officer is responsible for the overall running of all operations covering all departments. The chief operating officer is sometimes responsible for a portion of the business, focusing on the core business operations. Such arrangements tend to exclude the support functions, which are left to report to the Chief Executive Officer. 

The chief operating officer focuses on operations issues, and the focus is internal, while the CEO is responsible for external issues. The CEO in such structures tends to focus on opening external doors for the business, such as engaging external stakeholders.

The job description of chief operating officer has responsibilities that vary depending on the company. However, they will generally include overseeing the company's day-to-day operations, developing strategic plans, and ensuring that the company meets its financial goals.

A COO needs to be able to work well with other people. They should be able to communicate effectively and understand the needs of other departments. They should also be able to work well under pressure and make quick decisions.

The chief operating officer is expected to communicate effectively with all departments within the company. The COO must work with the CEO to ensure that the company meets its goals and objectives. The COO must also work with the Board of Directors to ensure the company is on track.

The overall purpose of the job

The chief operating officer oversees the business's day-to-day operations and ensures it achieves its mission and vision. The chief operating officer is responsible for developing a winning strategy for the organisation and putting in place the mechanisms for deploying, tracking and evaluating the success of such strategies.

Primary duties

The job description of chief operating officer must contain enough detail about what the job entails. In this section, I will list the typical duties of a chief operating officer.

Develops and executes the firm's strategy by mobilising key leaders and their teams to align with the strategic thrust of the organisation.

Ensures the organisation's productivity by building a performance culture within the business.

Oversees the implementation of all operational plans by agreeing on targets with divisional heads and putting a mechanism for tracking progress.

Ensures each division supports the organisation's strategy by agreeing on critical goals and targets for all senior leaders.

Education and training requirements

The chief operating officer job description often lists the education and training required for someone to succeed in this role. The choice of what education and training to list on the job description depends on the job scope covered by this role and the work's complexity level. The candidates must possess, as a minimum, a university degree. We are seeing other organisations making it mandatory for this role to have a masters degree. 

I have noted that, in some instances, the role requires an individual with technical industry knowledge. Let us look at the COO for companies operating in the mining, pharmaceutical, and engineering industries. You will notice that some of these require someone with industry-specific technical know-how. The standard chief operating officer job description lists a commercial degree as a requirement for someone to succeed in this role.

It is important to note that most companies hiring a chief operating officer will not hire an individual who does not have a first degree plus a masters degree in a commercial field like MBA or equivalent. The chief operating officer is a business leader responsible for making the business achieve profitable growth. For that reason, they would need to possess a business degree at a masters level. Below are some educational requirements for the chief operating officer job description.

A first degree in a relevant field (sometimes specified as a business degree or equivalent. What you specify here must depend on the knowledge you require a person to possess to drive business success).

An MBA  or equivalent is a mandatory requirement.

Experience requirements

 The chief operating officer job description lists this role's experience range. The experience to put in the job description would vary from organisation to organisation. Some mention that the ideal candidate must possess a certain number of years at the executive level plus another at the COO level.


The role of the chief operating officer has controversy around its existence in organisational structures. Different organisations establish this role for various reasons. Sometimes this is done to prepare targeted individuals for succession planning. Sometimes it's created to sideline the CEO.

Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone +263 24 248 1 946-48/ 2290 0276, cell number +263 772 356 361 or e-mail: [email protected] or visit ipcconsultants.com.

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