Supply chain-trained COO becomes a more strategic thinker

July 25, 20192 minute read

An article in Harvard Business Review cites the example of a new COO who came up through the supply chain ranks and found ways to change her focus to become a more strategic thinker. The author, Ron Carucci, writes that too few leaders even understand what strategic thinking really is – and how important it is to their role.

The COO described in the article “was appointed to her newly created role with the expressed purpose of integrating two supply chain organizations resulting from an acquisition. Having risen through the supply chain ranks, she spent most of her time reacting to operational missteps and customer complaints. Her adept problem-solving skill had trained the organization to look to her for quick decisions to resolve issues.“

When author Carucci, a consultant who works with CEOs and executives on transformational change for their organizations, asked her, “What’s the most important thing your CEO and board want you to accomplish in this role?” she answered readily, “To take out duplicate costs from redundant work and to get the organization on one technology platform to manage our supply chain.”

The author writes, “Her succinct clarity surprised even her, though she quickly realized how little she was engaged in activities that would reach that outcome.”

According to Harvard Business School professor David Collis, “It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.”

Understanding the strategic objective is the first step. The author goes on to describe in detail three ways leaders can become more strategic thinkers – and then implement their strategies.

Identify the strategic requirements of the job.

Uncover patterns to focus resource investments.

Invite dissent to build others’ commitment.

The author contends it’s not simply a matter of making time. “Executives must extract themselves from day-to-day problems and do the work that aligns their job with the company’s strategy.”