Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #847 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans aims to share knowledge and wisdom from Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Photo Credit: olia danilevich

I cannot say with authenticity about other industries; however, pharma industry is not very particular about designations. It holds true for all levels and all companies. For example, several companies give the title of ‘manager’ to the frontline salesperson, or medical representative. We see ‘territory manager’, ‘field manager’, etc. in companies. For the same job, he/she is called officer, and in still others ‘medical representative’. The same issue goes upwards to all levels. I have interviewed ‘national sales managers’ managing only one small region, or even ‘business unit heads’ working in one region only. The anomaly is caused because either the top management does not understand the importance of designations, or they think that a designation is just a name, so it does not merit any serious thinking. For reference, the government is always very particular about designations, and does not bestow flowery designation on anyone.

The case with above point is that whatever the designation maybe, the job description is clear to the management and the person concerned. There is one designation however, whose job description is not clear either. When the organizations exhaust regular designations for a person growing consistently, he is made Chief Operating Officer – COO. In rare cases, the COO may be elevated to the position of Chief Executive Officer – CEO, but few have been further upgraded as ‘DEPUTY CEO’.

Before we look at the job of COO, we may consider that designations are important for the organization and the individual, both. If the organization is not sure about the job description associated with the title, they will not be able to find the right person. If the organization advertises the title only, candidates shall apply with different expectations. For the people, if they are tagged with a wrong designation, they may feel stuck with it for life. For example, a COO would not like to have a lesser designation on his/her resume even if the job may be better, because of the fear that they may be judged wrongly. Therefore, it is important to understand and carry the sanctity of designations.

As mentioned above, the job and role of COO is not entirely clear in the pharma industry. That is why, not all companies have a COO in their C-suite where they have CFO – Chief Financial Officer, CHRO – Chief Human Resource Officer, and so on. As the name implies, the COO is supposed to supervise all operations of the company. The broad differences between COO and CEO are corporate strategy and scope of decision making.

With this preamble, we shall look at the profile of COO, as it should preferably be.

The role of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) can vary depending on the industry and company’s specific needs. However, in general, the COO is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and ensuring that the organization’s goals and objectives are met.

Some specific job responsibilities of a COO may include:

  1. Operational Strategy: Developing and implementing strategies to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness. This may involve identifying bottlenecks, streamlining processes, and implementing best practices.
  2. Financial Management: Working closely with the CFO to develop and manage budgets, financial forecasts, and performance metrics. Monitoring expenses and revenue to ensure profitability and cost-effectiveness.
  3. Team Management: Leading and managing teams across various departments, ensuring proper coordination, collaboration, and communication. Setting performance goals, providing feedback, and fostering a positive work environment.
  4. Performance Evaluation: Monitoring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and evaluating overall organizational performance. Analyzing data and trends to identify areas for improvement and develop action plans.
  5. Risk Management: Identifying and assessing operational risks and implementing mitigation strategies. Ensuring compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards.
  6. Stakeholder Management: Building and maintaining strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders, such as clients, vendors, investors, and industry associations. Representing the organization in key meetings, events, and conferences.
  7. Continuous Improvement: Promoting a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within the organization. Encouraging employee feedback and implementing changes to enhance operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) interacts with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in several ways.

  1. Collaboration and Alignment: The COO works closely with the CEO and CFO to ensure alignment of company strategies, goals, and initiatives. They collaborate to develop and implement plans that promote the overall success of the organization.
  2. Decision-making: The COO, CEO, and CFO collaborate on important decisions regarding company operations, finances, and resource allocation. They leverage their individual expertise to make informed decisions that drive the organization forward.
  3. Reporting: The COO provides regular reports to the CEO and CFO, updating them on the performance of various operational areas. This helps keep everyone informed and enables the CEO and CFO to make data-driven decisions.
  4. Budgeting and Financial Management: The COO works closely with the CFO during the budgeting process, ensuring that financial resources are allocated appropriately to support operational needs. They also collaborate on financial management strategies to optimize efficiency and profitability.
  5. Cross-functional coordination: The COO, CEO, and CFO collaborate to ensure effective cross-functional coordination between operational, executive, and financial teams. This helps facilitate seamless communication, maximize efficiency, and achieve organizational objectives.

Overall, the COO, CEO, and CFO should have a close working relationship, collaborating and coordinating efforts to drive the success of the organization.

Is it necessary to have a COO? Yes. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) role is necessary in the corporate hierarchy for several reasons.

  1. Operational Efficiency: The COO is responsible for the overall operational efficiency of the organization. They ensure that business processes are well coordinated, resources are allocated effectively, and organizational goals are achieved. They streamline operations to optimize productivity and reduce costs.
  2. Strategic Execution: The COO is responsible for executing the company’s strategic plans. They work closely with the CEO and other stakeholders to translate strategic objectives into actionable plans. They oversee the implementation of these plans and ensure that they are aligned with the organization’s goals.
  3. Cross-Functional Collaboration: The COO bridges the gap between different departments within the company. They foster collaboration and communication among various teams, functions, and business units. This helps in breaking down silos and promoting a unified approach towards achieving organizational objectives.
  4. Risk Management: The COO plays a crucial role in identifying and managing risks associated with operations. They develop risk mitigation strategies, establish internal controls, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations. By proactively addressing potential risks, the COO helps protect the company’s reputation and financial stability.
  5. Decision-Making Authority: The COO often holds decision-making authority in areas related to operations and execution. This relieves the CEO from being overloaded with day-to-day operational tasks, allowing them to focus on strategic planning, external relations, and long-term vision. The COO’s involvement in decision-making ensures efficient and timely execution of plans.
  6. Leadership and Team Management: The COO leads and manages teams within the organization. They provide direction, motivation, and guidance to employees, ensuring that they are aligned with the company’s goals and objectives. The COO also fosters a positive work culture, promotes employee engagement, and encourages professional development.

Overall, the COO role is necessary for effective and efficient management of operations, strategic execution, collaboration, risk management, decision-making, and team leadership within an organization.

We may hope that the role of COO is understood more clearly and applied to create the value this position can create for the organization.


Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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