Definition of COO in English

What is behind the term COO and what is the significance of the position for a company? How has this important position changed in recent years and what distinguishes the COO from the CEO?

Are you employed in a large corporation where a COO is working or is being sought? Perhaps you are already planning or already leading a successful startup company with a few employees. Maybe you need support with your managerial tasks? Then you should familiarize yourself with the position and responsibilities of a COO if you want to hire someone to relieve you of certain tasks at the executive level. Now you are probably asking yourself how important the COO is and what tasks are associated with the position. We present everything worth knowing about the topic in detail.

What does COO mean exactly?

Under the influence of modern globalization since the 1990s, many terms have been shaped by American and English influence and have spilled over to us. Gradually they were incorporated into our German and European vocabulary. Even the designation of executives in the boardrooms did not stop at the innovative American terminology.

One of these modern American terms is COO, an abbreviation of the job title chief operating officer. You may be familiar with leaders in this role as Chief Operating Managers. In order to understand what tasks the COO performs within the board level and the importance of this position, you should also understand the interaction between the COO and the CEO. The CEO is the top executive of a larger corporation, the executive chairman.

According to abbreviationfinder, the CEO, in long form chief executive officer, bears the highest responsibility in the company. The COO takes over selected tasks from the CEO in order to relieve him. These can vary greatly depending on the company and industry. The area of ​​responsibility of the COO is considered to be responsible and very varied.

The most important tasks of the COO are presented

Due to the industry and company dependency, it is hardly possible to provide comprehensive lists of the tasks of the COO. However, there is a common denominator in the tasks that the COOs of every company find themselves in. Strictly speaking, these are the work areas listed below:

  1. Supervisory body
    The COO monitors and controls the entire day-to-day business in the company.
  2. Strategist in the company
    The COO develops strategies that move the company forward and business plans for operations.
  3. Informing employees
    The COO informs employees about relevant strategies and business plans. In addition, he shares certain CEO information with employees when the CEO directs the Chief Operating Officer to do so.
  4. The COO and cooperation with the CEO
    The Chief Operating Officer informs the CEO about all events that occur in day-to-day business that are of greater importance, such as positive or negative developments in projects, incidents of a personal nature, but also the results of important meetings. The information that the COO passes on to the CEO must be of high added value and thus selected responsibly. The CEO has no time for nothing.
  5. Employee
    development To a certain extent, the COO is also responsible for employee development, in addition to all other activities, if this serves the company’s goals.
  6. Personnel management
    The COO also bears personnel responsibility to a greater extent. He controls the entire personnel management.

Whether a COO is hired at all and which tasks are ultimately assigned to him depends heavily on how the CEO runs his company. This is mainly due to the following areas:

  • Type and use of digital communication technologies in the company
  • Influence of the board of directors on the CEO to keep the hierarchies flat
  • Today, the CEO himself is often required to work closely with day-to-day business
  • the nature of the succession plan from the position of COO to the CEO has undergone changes

COO Meaning: Status and position of the COO in the company

If you are already familiar with the functions in the board and management levels of larger corporations, then you may have noticed that the position of COO is not held as often today as it was about 15 to 20 years ago. The status of COO is also different today. You should take this into account when assigning responsibilities if you plan to hire such a Chief Operating Officer.

Fewer COOs in corporations

The importance of the COO is undergoing a major change. In the mid-2000s, some articles even said that this position would soon no longer exist. But there one had been mistaken. Only the number of COOs has decreased. A headhunter agency recently found that only 30 percent of successful corporations currently employ a COO. In the year 2000 it was just under 50 percent.

The fact that the function of Chief Operating Officer is not exercised so often is not because the performance is not satisfactory. Rather, this is due to another circumstance. In the past, it was standard for stock corporations for the CEO to be the chairman of the board of directors in addition to his actual function, but this is no longer the case.

An increase in the quality of work

Studies, including those by PricewaterhouseCoopers, showed as early as 2014 that only 11 percent of CEOs in US corporations also hold the role of chairman of the board of directors, compared to around 50 percent in 2001. Since this double function is eliminated, the CEO has more time available to devote himself to the tasks that the COO takes on in his place. For this reason, there are fewer COOs in companies, while the quality of the function performed has increased slightly.

Once COO is on the business card, both employees, customers and business partners tacitly expect that he will one day be promoted to CEO. The COO therefore has a very special responsibility. He represents the CEO and is considered his deputy.

Responsible interaction between COO and CEO

The cooperation between COO and CEO is roughly comparable to that of two pilots in an airplane. Two executives at the helm, one is the captain. If the cooperation does not work, the plane crashes. In the case of COO and CEO it is the same. Employees quickly notice when there is disagreement and disagreement between the two.

If no countermeasures are taken, the motivation of the employees will be slowed down and the company could suffer damage. However, if the cooperation works well, the partnership COO and CEO stands for great success. This also shows what power and influence the COO still has in companies.

If the COO works in the interest of the CEO and their chemistry is right, then the COO has every chance of being promoted to CEO if the CEO ever resigns or orients himself elsewhere. The top priority in the cooperation between COO and CEO is trust. If both do not trust each other, the cooperation is doomed to fail. If both can trust each other unconditionally, this has an effect on the inside and outside of the company. The result is friendly cooperation and successful business.


While the COO is responsible for day-to-day business operations at board or executive level and reports to the CEO (chairman of the board or chief executive officer), the CEO is the highest executive responsible for the overall success of the company. The working relationship between COO and CEO is an intensive relationship of dependency, which only works if the two strong personalities communicate in a positive way.

Of course, sympathy also plays a crucial role. If you are aiming for a position as COO, realize that this working relationship is based above all on trust. If you want to hire a COO for your small business yourself, then check carefully whether he can meet your requirements and fits in with the company philosophy.

Definition of COO in English