Chief Operations Officer

If you are looking for a Chief Operations Officer job role or would like to find out how to become a COO, what skills you need, and what salaries are on offer, you will find a complete guide below.

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What is a Chief Operations Officer?

A Chief Operations Officer (COO) is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and ensuring the efficient and effective functioning of all business processes. The COO is typically second in command to the CEO and plays a critical role in translating the businesses strategic vision into actionable plans. Their primary objective is to optimise operational performance, enhance productivity, and drive overall growth and profitability.

The Chief Operations Officer responsibilities can vary depending on the industry and size of business, but they often include managing various operational departments such as production, supply chain, human resources, finance, and technology. They work closely with other senior executives to streamline processes, allocate resources, and monitor key performance indicators. 

With their expertise in operational efficiency and risk management, the COO plays a vital role in maintaining the competitiveness and adaptability of the company in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Key responsibilities

Operational strategy 

The COO is responsible for formulating and executing operational strategies aligned with the organisation’s overall goals. Good performance metrics for this responsibility may include improvements in operational efficiency, cost reduction, and revenue growth. Tools commonly used to measure these metrics include enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which provide insights into various operational aspects such as production, inventory, and sales.

Process optimisation

The Chief Operations Officer oversees the continuous improvement of business processes to enhance productivity and efficiency. Performance metrics in this area can include reduced cycle times, increased throughput, and minimised waste. Tools like Lean Six Sigma methodologies and process mapping software, such as Visio or Lucidchart, can be employed to analyse and streamline workflows.

Supply chain management

This role ensures smooth operations across the supply chain, from procurement to distribution. Key performance indicators (KPIs) may include on-time delivery, inventory turnover, and supplier performance. Supply chain management software like SAP or Oracle can help monitor and improve these metrics.

Risk management

This role assesses and manages operational risks to reduce potential disruptions. Good performance metrics may involve tracking incidents, near misses, and the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies. Risk management tools like risk registers or enterprise risk management software, such as Resolver or MetricStream, can be used to identify and mitigate risks.

Quality control

The Chief Operations Officer oversees quality control processes to ensure products or services meet or exceed customer expectations. Performance metrics may include customer satisfaction ratings, defect rates, and adherence to quality standards. Tools like statistical process control (SPC) software, such as Minitab or JMP, can be employed to monitor quality metrics and identify areas for improvement.

Financial management

The COO collaborates with the finance department to understand financial performance. Key metrics can include profitability, cost reduction, and working capital management. Financial management software like QuickBooks or Oracle Financials can provide insights into these metrics.

Technology and IT

The COO evaluates and implements technology solutions to improve operational efficiency and support growth. Performance metrics may involve system uptime, data security, and successful implementation of new technology initiatives. IT management tools like Jira or ServiceNow can help measure and track these metrics.

Talent development

The Chief Operations Officer oversees the development of high-performing operational teams and ensures the business has the right talent in place. Performance metrics can include employee satisfaction, retention rates, and training effectiveness. Human resource management systems like Workday or BambooHR can assist in measuring and managing these metrics.

Chief Operations Officer salary

There are many factors used to determine the Chief Operations Officer salary and package expectations – size of business, industry, growth stage, product pipeline and company turnover – just to name a few.

We’d expect a salary between £120,000 – £300,000 with additional benefits such as private medical insurance, performance related bonuses and pension contributions as standard for this level of role. The salary is largely determined by the organisation type, i.e., a large global listed business will be closer to the top range, with an early-stage scale-up towards the lower end of the scale, potentially with an equity package to enhance the overall package.

Equally, if an employer requires a COO with specific niche experience and knowledge, the candidate will often be able to negotiate a salary at the higher end of this scale.

Read our guide:
Equity 2024

Chief Operations Officer job description

A typical Chief Operations Officer job description will read something like the below:

The successful candidate will be responsible for the delivery of the company’s operational strategy, working across the business to establish efficiency and effectiveness.

Key roles for Chief Operations Officer:

  • Measuring the efficiency of an organisations operational processes and taking steps to rectify and improve them
  • Overseeing operations of the company and the work of executives
  • Designing and implementing business operations
  • Ensuring quality of the service, product and customer service within the business
  • Ensuring all departments are operating within their operational budgets and have the resources required to meet the business growth objectives
  • Working with HR to ensure there is a successful recruitment process and that the business are successfully retaining staff
  • Establishing policies that promote company culture and vision
  • Reviewing and analysing the business operations to ensure the business meets all standard and quality levels
  • Oversee all departmental plans and ensure goals and objectives are met over the long and short term


  • Understanding of business functions such as HR, Finance, marketing etc
  • Demonstrable competency in strategic planning and business development
  • Working knowledge of data analysis and performance/operation metrics
  • Outstanding organisational and leadership abilities
  • Excellent interpersonal and public speaking skills
  • Aptitude in decision-making and problem-solving

Chief Operations Officer skills

These soft skills complement the technical and managerial abilities of a COO and are critical for building effective relationships, managing change, and driving operational success in a complex and dynamic business environment.

Influencing: to influence and persuade stakeholders to adopt new processes or changes, making effective influencing skills crucial for driving operational improvements.

Conflict resolution: ability to navigate and resolve conflicts constructively is vital for maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment.

Change leadership: skilled at leading and managing organisational change, guiding teams through transitions and effectively communicating the benefits and impact of change initiatives.

Emotional intelligence: Having high emotional intelligence to understand and manage their own emotions as well as empathise with and relate to the emotions of others, leading to better collaboration, communication, and relationship-building.

Cultural sensitivity: In a globalised business environment, Chief Operations Officers must possess cultural sensitivity and be able to navigate diverse workforces, understanding and respecting different cultural norms and values.

Resilience: crucial for bouncing back from setbacks, maintaining focus, and leading effectively in challenging situations.

Systems thinking: see the bigger picture and understand how different parts of the business and its processes interact, enabling them to make strategic decisions that improve overall performance.

Collaboration: promoting teamwork and cross-functional collaboration to drive operational efficiency and innovation.

Negotiation: Negotiation skills are important for COOs when dealing with suppliers, partners, and internal stakeholders to secure favourable terms, contracts, or agreements that support objectives.

Agility: adapt quickly to changing circumstances and make agile decisions is vital to navigate the evolving market dynamics and ensure operational resilience.

Chief Operations Officer career

The career path to becoming a Chief Operations Officer can vary depending on individual experiences and industries. However, here is a typical career trajectory that many follow:

  1. Education: COOs often hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as business administration, operations management, or engineering. They may also pursue advanced degrees like an MBA to gain additional business acumen. Early in their careers, individuals may work in entry-level operational roles to gain hands-on experience and develop a solid understanding of operational processes.

  2. Operational roles and specialisation: After gaining foundational experience, individuals progress through various operational roles. They may work in areas such as supply chain management, production, quality control, or project management, building expertise and a deep understanding of operational best practices. Specialisation in specific industries or functions can be advantageous, providing industry-specific knowledge and insights.

  3. Leadership and managerial experience: As professionals advance in their careers, they often transition into leadership and managerial positions overseeing operational teams and departments. This can include roles like Operations Manager, Director of Operations, or Vice President of Operations. In these positions, individuals are responsible for driving operational performance, managing budgets, and leading cross-functional teams.

  4. Executive leadership and strategic roles: To move closer to the COO position, individuals typically gain experience in broader executive leadership roles. This may involve serving as a Senior Vice President or Executive Vice President, where they have a more strategic focus and contribute to business wide decision-making. They collaborate closely with other C-suite executives and work on aligning operational objectives with overall business strategies.

  5. Chief Operations Officer: Finally, after accumulating significant operational and leadership experience, professionals may be appointed as a COO. This role often comes with responsibilities such as overseeing all operational aspects, driving efficiency and performance, and contributing to strategic planning and decision-making at the highest level.

Executive level interview questions

Read our guide to the best senior management interview questions, often asked by employers at any stage of executive level interviews.

Chief Operations Officer FAQs

What does a Chief Operations Officer do?
A Chief Operations Officer measures the efficiency of an organisations operational processes and takes steps to improve them. They oversee the operations of the business and its employees and designs better operational initiatives that must be implemented. The COO would report directly into the CEO of the organisation.
How much do Chief Operational Officers make?
We’d expect a salary between £120,000 – £300,000 with additional benefits such as private medical insurance, performance related bonuses and pension contributions as standard for this level of role.
Who does a CCO report into?
In most business structures, a Chief Operations Officer will sit on the leadership team and report directly into the CEO.