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Available dates

Mar 30—Jul 14, 2020
6 daysModules info
Stanford, California, United States
USD 15200
USD 2533 per day


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About the course

Drive and sustain innovation and operational excellence. Strengthen collaboration with C-suite leaders to translate strategies into actionable plans.

Agile. Creative. Innovative. And yes, strategic, too. The demands on today’s chief operating officers have expanded far beyond optimizing resources and efficiencies. Successful COOs must also encourage and implement change in their organizations and create a culture that accelerates rather than hinders innovation. The Emerging COO: Driving Innovation and Operational Excellence will give you the strategies and leadership skills to innovate, collaborate, and execute.

Designed for emerging and experienced COOs, this hands-on program blends immersive online learning with six experiential days on the Stanford University campus, in the heart of Silicon Valley. When you return to the office, you will put learning into action working on a specific business challenge for your organization. Over the course of the three-month program, you’ll learn from Stanford GSB faculty with expertise in everything from agile manufacturing and supply chain to design thinking, lean startup, and storytelling. It’s a unique opportunity to develop, deepen, and apply your learning.

Key Benefits

Learn to achieve operational excellence, instill and inspire innovation, and foster collaboration across your organization.

  • Develop strategic thinking and frameworks to achieve operational excellence.
  • Learn design thinking methodology and mindsets to lead operational innovation.
  • Explore how to integrate effective new operational routines into your organization’s culture.
  • Enhance communication and leadership skills to get buy-in at the C-suite level and across the organization.
  • Network with peers from diverse industries and functional areas to gain new insights that can be applied to your organization.


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 Operational Excellence and Innovation 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 is delivered in three distinct yet connected modules over the course of three months to provide both depth and breadth.

Module 1: Build the Foundation (Online) Strengthen your financial and strategic acumen through immersive online content and hands-on assignments. Acquire new skills to help you interact and partner with other senior leaders in your organization.

Module 2: Explore and Engage (On Campus) Building upon learnings from Module 1, go in-depth with an intensive, six-day, on-campus experience. Learn how to become a more effective COO through a variety of faculty-led discussions, experiential sessions, and guest speakers to put learning into action.

Module 3: Apply and Innovate (Online and On the Job) Integrate online coursework in design thinking with strategies and insights learned in the first two modules, as you execute a business challenge specific to your organization.

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:

  • How to evaluate accurately the effectiveness of a new routine and
  • 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.

Who should attend

  • Emerging and experienced COOs who are motivated to lead and ignite change in their organizations — from any industry and country
  • Senior-level operations leaders and aspiring COOs from any size or stage company — startups, high-growth, and established

Trust the experts

Stefanos Zenios

Bio Stefanos Zenios is the Investment Group of Santa Barbara Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Operations, Information, and Technology. He is also the faculty codirector of Stanford GSB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. An innovative teacher and researcher, Zenios is the main ar...


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