Chief Strategy Officers: fashion or necessity?

Research on strategy peaks my interest. Even more so when this research has been conducted by researchers from my country of residence (Switzerland)!

In a recent issue of the Strategic Management Journal, Markus Menz and Christine Scheef discuss the upcoming role in the executive suite: the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO).

This relatively new phenomenon has been exploratively studied in qualitative fieldwork from 2007 onwards. The incidence of the Chief Strategy Officer in S&P 500 companies is evidence for its quickly rising popularity.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 9.51.21
Annual incidence of CSOs, 2004 – 2008

 

But why do company’s have CSOs and what is it that CSOs do? The presence of CSOs increases with a company’s total diversification, acquisition level and the role interdependence of the top management team. A company’s size and alliance does not affect the presence of CSOs. Also, the presence of CSOs cannot be linked a company’s financial performance.

Chief Strategy Officers typically manage a company’s strategy process (competitive and market analyses, long range planning, monitoring of strategy implementation). Moreover, CSOs are responsible for strategy execution of business and corporate development activities, such as mergers and acquisitions and alliances.

The question whether a CSO is a fad remains open. What this research contributes to practitioners is a reasoning for when – and when not – to consider a CSO. The key questions should be about the level of structural and strategic complexity and about the frequency and complexity of business and corporate development. High level of complexity and frequency could legitimate a specific CSO role – If not, the CSO role remains with the CEO.

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