Stanford Graduate School of Business campus


Gain a fundamental understanding of how to drive operational innovation and implement operational excellence across your organization.

Transforming operations into an engine for growth and innovation requires a combination of strategic and creative thinking. The Emerging COO: Driving Innovation and Operational Excellence focuses on both, providing a comprehensive learning and doing experience.

Strategy and finance. Value chain innovation and agile manufacturing. Design thinking and lean startup. From the incremental to the disruptive, the rigorous, experiential curriculum will provide you with the skills to lead impactful change in your organization.

Stefanos Zenios, Faculty Director

Program Highlights

Below is just a sample of the sessions you’ll experience as part of the program.

Strategic Leadership

Why are some companies more competitive than others? To be successful, a manager must be able to diagnose the reasons behind successes and failures, and to be able to effectively improve performance in the future. You will be introduced to key strategic concepts used to understand firm performance. You will learn how to explain why some firms perform better than others, describe and explain the logic of an organization’s strategy, and apply the strategy identification framework. We will also discuss the process of forming a strategy, how to identify when a strategy needs to be updated, and how to incorporate A/B testing and consumer feedback into the strategy formation process.

Finance and the Creation of Value

Even the best and most innovative ideas will go nowhere unless we can convince others to commit the necessary resources. Doing so almost always requires that we make a compelling case that the value of the opportunity far outweighs the upfront costs. You will gain experience building a financial model to assess a proposed new product launch. We will consider key financial metrics that are often applied and learn which ones are reliable (and which are not). We will also look at how we can use the financial model to guide our attention as project managers in order to maximize the impact of our efforts.

Value Chain Innovation

Most of us think of innovations as new product features, new functionalities, or new offerings that customers value. But for any product to be successful, we must think of the value chain in which the product is created or manufactured. Although we use the term “product,” it applies to service as well, as often times there is a whole value chain that supports the provision of a service. What are some of the value chain innovations that could help make your innovative product successful? Can we expand the source of innovation ideas to include value chain partners and leverage all their innovation powers? How can we garner the support of external and internal partners to increase the success rate of new innovation initiatives?

Culture and Operations: From Operational Routine to Norm

COOs typically design and implement operational routines in their organizations, which require supervision and some sort of monitoring mechanism to evaluate effectiveness. Both supervision and monitoring make sense when new routines are being introduced and fine-tuned, but they are also costly. Accordingly, the challenge for a COO is twofold:

  1. How to evaluate accurately the effectiveness of a new routine and
  2. How to make the essentials of an effective routine part of an organization’s culture, thereby reducing oversight costs.

The first challenge can be addressed with a true experimental design. The second challenge can be addressed by using well-known principles of cultural management. We will review and discuss a set of cases where new routines were introduced and we will track their progress and observe the outcomes. Through this process, we will generate practical lessons for COOs about how to evaluate routines and how to make them part of their organization’s culture.


Molly Patrick
Associate Director, Stanford Executive Program Executive Education