The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer

By understanding how the duties of the chief strategy officer (CSO) can vary significantly from organization to organization, boards and CEOs can make better decisions about which type of CSO is necessary for their leadership teams.


The chief strategy officer (CSO) is a comparatively new but increasingly important role in many organizations. To explore the role of the CSO, we conducted 24 interviews with CSOs at U.K. companies that are part of the FTSE 100 Index, across a number of industrial sectors. Secondary data — company reports, strategy documents and presentations — were used to complement the interviews. All interviews were conducted either at the CSO’s office or via telephone and followed the same semistructured outline and set of questions. They were transcribed verbatim and analyzed through qualitative data management software.

From the outset, it was clear that there was a variation in CSO roles, focused on two dimensions. The first dimension was the stage of the strategy process in which the CSO was involved. Our findings identified a significant demarcation between whether the CSO was focused on the formulation of the strategy or the execution of the strategy.

The second dimension of variation was how the CSO engaged in the strategy process. Some CSOs were facilitators, advising business units during the strategy formulation or assisting in the execution. Other CSOs were enactors, far more likely to execute the strategy process by themselves or with their team.

Based on variation in the roles carried out by the CSOs, we have developed a typology of four CSO archetypes.

1. Internal Consultant

CSOs of this type focused almost exclusively on strategy formulation by themselves or with their strategy team. The execution of the strategy — ownership and responsibility for its implementation — resided firmly with the business units. These CSOs carried out activities similar to traditional management consultants. As one of them stated, “It’s very much like what an external consultant would do; the only difference is that we’re internal.” As a result, we have called this archetype the “Internal Consultant.”

This type of CSO adopted a very rational approach to the development of strategy. One of them described the role as “getting the facts on the table, coming up with options, evaluating such options and then recommending [the best] one to the business.

Read the Full Article:

Sign in, buy as a PDF or create an account.

1 Comment On: The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer

  • Building a successful team | The Turbine | April 11, 2014

    […] look for Chief Strategy Officer’s (CSO) to fill multiple rolls within an organization.  An article from MIT says, “Our findings identified a significant demarcation between whether the CSO was focused […]

Add a comment