The role of Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) is relatively new in business, but it’s increasingly significant. The duties involved can vary depending on the organisation, and it’s important for boards and CEOs to identify the kind of CSO they need.
Taman H. Powell and Duncan N. Angwin explore the role of the CSO on the MIT Sloan Management Review website, having interviewed 24 CSOs at UK FTSE 100 companies across a range of industrial sectors.
The authors have developed four CSO archetypes based on on the variation of roles the position covers:
1) Internal consultant. This type of CSO focuses “almost exclusively” on formulating strategy by themselves or with a strategy team. The responsibility of execution and implementation of strategy lies with the business units themselves.
2) The specialist. This archetype, as the name suggests, is a a CSO chosen for highly specialised skills and knowledge. This kind of CSO might be brought in to handle mergers and acquisitions or government requirements. The specialist is often found in highly regulated industries where policy decisions are of vital importance.
3) The coach. This archetype is “very much a facilitator”, focusing on the formulation of strategy with business units. Unlike the internal consultant, the coach doesn’t develop strategy by themselves.
Coaches are usually recruited from within an organisation, unlike internal consultants or specialists. They might previously have held a senior role within a business unit. They tend to remain in their post as CSO for an extended period, gaining the required deep knowledge of the senior executive team and strategy process.
4) The change agent. Like specialists, change agents focus on execution. The role of the change agent is like that of an “enabler”, bringing people together. Most of their time is spent working on implementation with business unit heads.
Like coaches, change agents are typically recruited from within and remain in the role for an extended period.
The specialist is suitable for significant merger and acquisition activity or in highly regulated industries in which the organisations seek to “influence the dialogue”.
The other CSO archetypes are appropriate for different stages of the strategy process. The internal consultant is suitable for formulating the strategy for the business units; the coach is suitable for facilitating the strategy approval process between the business unit and senior management; and the change agent is suitable for facilitating the strategy execution with the business unit.