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Leadership priorities for COOs in 2021 and beyond

The C-Suite: 2021 and Beyond

What’s changed for Chief Operating Officers?

Creating an agile business model was already a top priority for COOs prior to the pandemic. The challenge of COVID has provided an extraordinary (if unexpected) impetus for them to meet their ambitions at rapid pace. There is a greater urgency than ever to integrate new digital business models, distribution methods and technologies into operations.

To succeed in this goal, heads of operations are keener than ever to improve and develop their leadership skills in order to complement their deep operational knowledge: 82% are very interested in learning more about leading transformational change (up from 63% in 2020) and 64% in building a high performing team (up from 34%).

COVID has resulted in an upsurge in technology deployment: robotics are being heavily utilised in manufacturing plants, warehouses and customer interaction arenas. AI and data analytics are increasingly being used to help organisations understand, audit and connect with their value chains in order to reduce costs and help ensure sustainable operations.

Supply chains that were already rapidly evolving are likely to undergo a permanent paradigm shift. Chief Operating Officers are radically reevaluating their strategies for mitigating risk and harnessing the potential opportunities.

COO Mega Themes

Reimagine Business

There is a rare and remarkable opportunity to disrupt the status quo and engineer the path to a better future, balanced with a fresh look at risk appetite and strategic opportunities.

Culture & Future

True authentic cultures are emerging, with increased levels of compassion and vulnerability being displayed by leaders. Remote and mixed workforce models are reaching deeper into people’s lives.

Digitalisation of Work

Digitalisation of all business processes will continue to expand, optimising automation and human excellence.

Data & Improvement

COOs have a renewed focus on the importance of data and its utilisation to support decision making and drive continuous improvement.
Explore these themes further at one of our Chief Operating Officer Network events


“COVID-19 has exploded many organisational norms, generating incredible opportunities to positively disrupt the status quo in 2021 and beyond. Increased levels of compassion and shared vulnerability amongst teams can be harnessed to build a truly authentic culture that reaches far beyond ‘office hours’.

Additionally, as technology permeates through the majority of organisations, there’s an increasing pressure to digitise more and more business processes. COOs have an opportunity to instead focus on creating thoughtful synergies between automation and human excellence.”

Talia Grantham, Chief Operating Officer, Bright/Shift

Talia Grantham, Chief Operating Officer, Bright/Shift

COO Challenges & Opportunities 2021

As Chief Operating Officers lead their teams through 2021 and beyond, what are the key challenges they must confront and what opportunities can they exploit?
  1. Implementing sustainable business policies

  2. Using data to optimise operational processes

  3. Continuous business improvement, particularly in supply chains

  4. Building a high performing team and becoming a strategic enabler

  5. Effective use of KPIs, metrics and decision protocols

  6. Determining risk appetite

Georgia State University

“The near future presents the COO with a rare and remarkable opportunity to reimagine their business. Coping with the pandemic has upset the apple cart – everything inside and outside the company is unsettled and in motion.

Though our shared desire to ‘get back to normal’ is easy to understand, it’s important for COOs to take the opportunity presented by this state of flux to question how they want things to be and to engineer the path towards better than normal.”

Prof Nate Bennett, Professor at Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University

Prof Nate Bennett, Professor at Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
Author: Riding shotgun – the role of the COO

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It’s time for the C-Suite to look beyond ‘normal’. Time to build a resilient organisation with a purpose, business model, skills, resources and strategic direction fit for the new future. Find out how C-Suite leaders are prioritising their leadership agenda.

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