Chief strategy officer

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A chief strategy officer (CSO) is an executive that has primary responsibility for strategy formulation and management, including developing the corporate vision and strategy, managing strategic planning, and leading strategic initiatives, including M&A, transformation, partnerships, and cost reduction. Some companies give the title of Chief Strategist or Chief Business Officer to its senior executives who are holding the top strategy role.

The need for a CSO position may be attributed to CEOs having less time to devote to strategy, along with uncertain environments that increase the need for professional strategy development.[1][2] As a result the position can be seen in academic, nonprofit and corporate organizations.[3][4] In recent years, the CSO position increased in popularity, which is reflected by the high number of US companies (nearly 50% of S&P 500 firms) who created CSO positions in their top management teams.[5]


The CSO is an advisory and deal making role; both leader and doer, with the responsibility for formulating corporate strategy as well as ensuring that strategic initiatives and the corporate portfolio of businesses are optimized to support the strategy. The CSO at times functions as a sort of “mini CEO,” someone who must see the issues confronting the company from as broad a perspective as the chief executive does.[6] This unique background takes a multitude of different operating experiences, and must include being both a creative thinker and influential collaborator.[7] In quite a few cases, CSOs may be charged with overall business development including identifying gaps in the business or capabilities portfolios. They then make build, buy, or partner decisions to best fill those gaps. The banker’s remit also frequently includes developing and overseeing the company’s M&A agenda and developing and negotiating strategic partnerships. M&A responsibilities often entail both identifying and executing deals and managing the post-merger integration. The business development role can also encompass licensing deals and venture capital investments that support the strategic agenda. [8] CSOs are often executives who have worn many hats at a variety of companies or agencies before taking on the responsibilities and tasks that come with the job title.[9][10]

Typical CSO responsibilities include:[11][12]

  • Develop a comprehensive, inclusive strategic plan and growth strategy by collaborating with the CEO, senior leadership and the board of directors
  • Analyze market dynamics, market share changes and product line performance.
  • Identify and often execute important capital projects, joint ventures, potential M&A targets and other strategic partnership opportunities.
  • Identify and convey strategic risks.
  • Communicating and implementing a company's strategy internally and externally so that all employees, partners, suppliers, and contractors understand the company-wide strategic plan and how it carries out the company's overall goals.
  • Driving decision-making that creates medium- and long-term improvement.
  • Establishing and reviewing key strategic priorities and translating them into a comprehensive strategic plan.
  • Monitoring the execution of the strategic plan
  • Facilitating and driving key strategic initiatives through inception phase.
  • Ensuring departmental/unit strategic planning projects reflect organizational strategic priorities.
  • Partnering with institutional leadership, special committees, and consultants to support execution of key initiatives
  • Developing inclusive planning processes.
  • Translating strategies into actionable and quantitative plans
  • Mobilizing and managing teams of individuals charged with executing strategies.
  • Acting as a resource across an organization to increase broad cohesion for strategic plans.
  • Execute divestments and divestiture
  • Collaborate with the CFO to develop a capital plan in line with the organization's strategy

In terms of the CSO’s role, which varies significantly from organization to organization and evolves over time, the two basic roles strategy developer and strategy implementer are observable.[13] This dichotomy can be further divided into four CSO archetypes.[14]

  • Strategic Advisor: focused almost exclusively on strategy formulation, portfolio management and leading strategic initiatives, and is often the primary archetype associated with the CSO.
  • Financial Specialist: have specialized skills that are not otherwise present within an organization that can be used to implement inorganic strategic changes. (e.g., M&A, investments, JV, corporate development)
  • Coach: work to provide information to strategy creators and facilitate communication between teams, team members and stakeholders.
  • Change Agents: facilitate and enable transformation. This archetype and the coach has evolved into a new c-suite role called a chief transformation officer or overlaps with the chief operating officer role.


CSOs often hold advanced degrees, commonly a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Many executives holding the top strategy spot have had extensive experience in strategy development often at top management consulting firms.[15] [16] [17] Other chief strategy officers have backgrounds in corporate development or investment banking.[18][19] An HBR study also found that most CSOs have planning, functional, or line-management skills in addition to their core strategy skills before assuming the top strategy role.[20]

Chief Global StrategistEdit

A Chief Global Strategist (CGS) is one of the highest-ranking corporate officers, administrators, corporate administrators, executives, or executive officers, in charge of the global strategy and the domestic and international expansion of a corporation, company, organization, or agency.

The position is relatively new in the private sector, and a reflection of the influence of globalization upon companies and other organizations that seek to expand their influence, whether as a matter of necessity to survive, or the exploration of an opportunity.

A prominent example of a CGS is Howard Schultz of Starbucks Corporation who was Chairman and CEO; however, in 2000 he left the position of CEO to become the Chief Global Strategist. Schultz returned to his previous role as CEO on January 18, 2008.[21]


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  2. ^ "The Chief Strategy Officer in the European Firm: Professionalising Strategy in Times of Uncertainty, The European Business Review, May-Jun. 2013". Archived from the original on 2015-02-11. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  3. ^ "Rise of the Chief Strategy Officer, Outlook Journal, Jan. 2008". Archived from the original on 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  4. ^ "Charities Turn to Chief Strategy Officers To Help Plan Their Future, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Oct. 2013". Archived from the original on 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  5. ^ Menz, Markus (2013). "Chief strategy officers: Contingency analysis of their presence in top management teams". Strategic Management Journal. 35: 461–471. doi:10.1002/smj.2104.
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  8. ^ "Making of Successful Chief Strategy Officer". Deloitte United States. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  9. ^ "The Chief Strategy Officer, Harvard Business Review, Oct. 2007". Archived from the original on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  10. ^ "Rise of the Chief Strategy Officer, Outlook Journal, Jan. 2008". Archived from the original on 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  11. ^ "What is Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)? - Definition from". SearchCIO. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  12. ^ "Understanding the Role of the Chief Strategy Officer, BCG Perspectives, December 2013". Archived from the original on 2015-09-12. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  13. ^ "The Strategist's Change, Think Act, Nov. 2014" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-18. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  14. ^ "The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer, MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012". Archived from the original on 2014-09-26. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  15. ^ "The Chief Strategy Officer". Harvard Business Review. 2007-10-01. ISSN 0017-8012. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  16. ^ "Indra Nooyi Pepsico - Who Am I ? By Kevin Batavia". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  17. ^ "Kimberly-Clark Names Robert W. Black As Chief Strategy Officer | Kimberly-Clark Corporation". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  18. ^ Balakrishnan, Anita (2017-03-26). "How Imran Khan became the secret weapon behind the year's biggest tech IPO". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  19. ^ "Here's How To Become A Chief Strategy Officer In 2021". 2020-10-02. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  20. ^ "The Chief Strategy Officer". Harvard Business Review. 2007-10-01. ISSN 0017-8012. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  21. ^ "Starbucks Corporation Timeline". Retrieved 26 September 2016.