2024: Celebrating 20 Years Serving Operations Executives - Top Ten Insights

24.12.23 12:30 AM By Chuck Orzechowski

What do you do after searching for a community of Operations Executives to work on challenges unique to your role…and don’t find one?  

You build one!


That’s exactly what we did in Silicon Valley in 2004. We built the first peer organization in the world exclusively to empower Operations Executives to achieve more. We understand that each operations leader might have a slightly different role based on  industry, company size or company stage. That’s what makes each Operations Executive so unique. You can throw out the one-size-fits-all playbook for Operations Executives because there isn’t one.


Our strengths are grounded in the collective knowledge, experience and skills of our members. It’s why we attract the very best. After 1000s of conversations over the last 20 years, we have gotten to know Operations Executives better than any organization in the world. We’ve loved every minute of it…and all our members along the way.


Here are our Top Ten Insights:

  1. Sales and revenue responsibilities on the rise: While the COO role is more commonly pointed inward, we have seen increasing focus placed on revenue generation. In 2022, we surveyed our members, asking about their top areas of focus. 48% identified scaling the business.  It may be the result of more organizations adopting a Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) process toward business planning or possibly the nature of an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to lift growth following the pandemic. 

  2. Navigating the CEO relationship is still a common challenge: It seems as if new COOs click very well with the CEO shortly after being hired. Then, as the novelty wears off or the “honeymoon period” ends, problems can arise. Our members have the benefit of drawing on similar experiences across their COO Forum peers to learn strategies to improve alignment with their CEOs. However, we have seen the best odds of success require designing a CEO/COO relationship prior to the hire in order to close any alignment gaps quickly.

  3. Demands on the COO’s time are greater now than ever: During the past five years, there has been an explosion of additional duties and areas of focus placed on COOs. These responsibilities reflect the enormous change taking place in society, including environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), cybersecurity, work/life balance shifts, AI integration/policy making and more. It doesn't appear to be easing off any time soon! 

  4. COOs are the key change agent in their organizations: Typically, the CEO is given credit for being the visionary within the business and is associated with change and improvement. However, we know that the COO or Operations Executive is the key figure that interprets that vision, develops it into an organizational plan and executes the strategy. As Steve Jobs said, “..ideas are worth nothing unless executed.” 

  5. COOs are a resilient and gritty bunch! It takes a lot of pressure to create diamonds. COOs are no different. During the past 20 years, we have seen our members work through very stressful (high pressure) situations with success. They come through the other end of their challenges more resilient and stronger as an executive.

  6. COOs are growth oriented: “The only easy day was yesterday” may be the motto of the US Navy Seals but we believe it applies to our members as well.  The COO role requires constant growth and learning to stay ahead of the ever-changing business landscape. Our members are readers. They attend workshops and seminars. Some still find time to participate in other peer groups, including specialized industry associations.

  7. COOs have heart: It is no coincidence that the COO is most often the go-to problem solver in their organization. They have honed their listening skills and empathetic approaches to employee challenges. This attracts people to their offices. COOs understand that people are the most important resource an organization has. Just look at last month’s blog article to see how the COO’s heart spills over into their communities as well: https://www.cooforum.net/blogs/post/2023-coo-forum-year-in-review

  8. It really is lonely at the top: A common refrain we continue to hear from our members over these 20 years is “it is so great to feel understood, valued, and heard at the COO Forum." COOs put themselves out there for the entire organization and yet often do not give themselves the time to de-stress, share their challenges or recharge. It gives us all so much satisfaction to provide the support and community our COOs and Operations Executives need.

  9. Post-pandemic changes are here to stay (mostly):  Businesses have seen many different bubbles and crises over the years, including some in our more recent memories, such as the dot-com bust and the financial meltdown of 2008. While those crises had lasting effects, none affected us more than the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent return-to-office initiatives often make  headlines, but we can tell you that remote and hybrid work is very much here to stay.  Our COOs are still working through these challenges. It forces greater emphasis on leadership, communication, culture and preparation than ever before.

  10. Yet to be written. 

Wait! How can you end a Top Ten Insights list with #10 empty? All right, sure, we could probably name one hundred or so more insights we have gained over the last twenty years of serving the best Operations Executives in the world. But...we’re leaving #10 open for the next 20 years.

At the COO Forum, we like to say that our #1 strength is the collective knowledge of our members, Directors, thought leaders and team. That really is what defines the COO Forum peer experience. We aren’t just a single person who showcases all they’ve learned and offers to share their singular experience. Nope.


It has been the 1000s of conversations with members…their hardships, successes, laughs, cries and new insights over these past 20 years that have made us who we are.


Come and see what we are all about. You just might get to help us complete #10!