Only 17% of companies listed in the Fortune 500 and the S&P 500 in 2002 named a successor to a COO position after the incumbent had been promoted. That is down from 47% in 1996 data from the recruiting firm Crist Associates. The data was cited in Corporate Board Member magazine.
Not surprisingly, the same data found that between 1986 and 1999 the number of companies employing a COO decreased by roughly 20%.
Peter Crist, president of Crist Associates, attributes the trend to two main factors. First, Chief Executive Officers (CEO) are younger and bring to their role more of a hands on approach, thus taking many of the day to day duties normally reserved for the COO with them. This in turn is driven by the second factor, that corporate boards and shareholders want the top brass at a company to know exactly what’s happening at the operations level. With CEOs being more intimately involved in operations, the role of COO gets absorbed.