Everything you’ve ever Wanted to Know About Becoming a Chief Strategy Officer

by | Apr 5

9 min read

The chief strategy officer (CSO) of a company is the individual responsible for its strategy formulation and management, with a view to achieving important corporate goals. He or she usually reports to the chief executive officer (CEO), and fills a role that is considered pivotal in the global business arena for two reasons: CEOS have limited time to devote to the matter of strategy; and, youthful CEOs, such as those at tech startups, may not have the experience to implement professional strategy practices at the required level.

When you are hired into the role of CSO, there are several key duties and/or responsibilities that you will need to attend to.

First up, it is critical to formulate a comprehensive strategic plan, together with the CEO, leadership team and board of directors (BOD). Once developed, it will be important that you communicate this plan clearly, effectively and memorably to all the firm’s stakeholders and staff members.

Ask yourself whether you think you have secured the necessary buy-in for the strategy’s execution. An enthusiastic team, whose knowledge and skill have been appealed to, will obviously do a much better job of bringing the plan to fruition than a team that is shaky on its main steps and backing logic.

Your next step will be to keep the momentum going, even when the going is tough or progress is slow. At this point in the plan, tasks should be attempted in a specific order and staff members kept accountable for their contributions.

Analyse the market, what your competitors are up to, and how your own team and product lines are performing in comparison. If your firm is flagging a bit in terms of gaining market share, refine your strategy and return to the buy-in stage, as mentioned above.

An exciting part of the CSO job is keeping your eyes open for new strategic opportunities – such as mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and mutually beneficial strategic partnerships. From time to time, you may also need to oversee the selling off of assets to fund a fresh new opportunity for growth.
Read more, here: https://getlucidity.com/strategy-resources/what-a-chief-strategy-officer-is-and-why-you-need-one/

Five Inflexion Points to Consider

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently shared five inflexion points, or points on a curve at which change breaks through, in an agenda geared towards today’s chief strategy officers. Here’s what they believe is “brewing at the edges”, and “could potentially break through” within the next 3 to 5 years, thereby requiring any CSO’s immediate attention:

  • interesting, and previously unexplored, corridors for the movement of capital, people and goods;
  • a retake of which raw materials may be in greatest demand in the green economy, who owns them, and how this may redefine various economic and geopolitical dynamics;
  • whether our older population may need to “unretired” themselves, to help with talent shortages, the need for vast knowledge and experience in the workplace, and the difficulty of affording retirement as the cost of living skyrockets;
  • whether we will veer from data ownership (and a focus on its security), to that of data-sharing – which Gartner predicts is a trend that will allow organisations to outperform their peers on business value metrics (i.e. increasing collaboration, efficiency, and a company’s pool of expertise); and
  • the need to safely and ethically experiment with new use cases for technology, as the hype surrounding generative AI (for use in writing, such as ChatGPT, and even film making) takes hold.

As chief strategy officers, it will be necessary not only need to see these inflexion points coming, but also to decide how an organisation’s business strategy will need to be tweaked  – or completely rewritten – to accommodate them.

Read more, here: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/03/inflexion-points-chief-strategy-officers/

Getting Back to the Basics

It is usual in the C-suite to get bogged down in the detail of your work. Instead, take a step back and remind yourself of what “strategy” entails, in its very essence.

A business strategy, according to IMD.org, is an organisational master plan that a team of executives uses to achieve specific strategic goals. Think of your plan as a long-term sketch – showing exactly where you are planning to go as a company, together with how, in fact, you intend to get there.
Source: https://www.imd.org/reflections/business-strategy/

Your ideal qualifications and years of experience

The experts at Betterteam advise that any applicant they put forward for a CSO role will be required to have an advanced degree in marketing or business development; three years or more of strategic experience in management consulting or at an investment banking firm; and excellent computer skills.

Glassdoor agrees with this assessment, adding the need for experience in a fast-paced environment such as business-process outsourcing (BPO); extensive business management experience; the ability to multi-task across priorities; a pragmatic and analytical nature; and the ability to communicate well and collaborate with your C-suite team.

What’s clear is that this is a role that’s better suited to an applicant who has been embedded within the business world for a number of years, so that he or she is able to assist the CEO with important issues such as impartial, astute and coherent decision-making; and leading matters of strategy to a conclusive head more swiftly and efficiently than anyone else in the C-suite. 

See “Online courses for the win”, under Fast Facts 2, below.

Salary Comparison: South Africa versus the United States

The average CSO in South Africa earns a salary of approximately R1 990 285 per annum, together with an average bonus of R62 590. The salary range for CSOs, however, extends from R1 356 054 for an entry-level entrant (one to three years of experience) to R2 564 844 for a CSO with eight or more years of in-house experience.

Source: https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job/chief-strategy-officer/south-africa

In the US, on the other hand, the median salary per annum is US$343 590 [R6 113 792], with an estimated additional bonus of US$147 112 [R2 617 690] per annum. The most likely range in salaries is an entry-level US$199 000 [R3 540 978], extending up to a senior US$628 000 [R11 174 544].

Source: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/chief-strategy-officer-salary-SRCH_KO0,22.htm

Grey London hires Tarek Sioufi as their new CSO

One aspect of becoming a CSO is that of keeping up to date with who else has taken on the role in the global business community, and what it is that they are promising, or will be providing, to their new employer.

A recent announcement in this regard is that of London-based Tarek Sioufi, who will be moving across in June 2023 from Media.Monks to Grey London, to head up the latter agency’s CSO department.

According to the president and chief creative officer of Grey London, Laura Jordan Bambach, “Tarek is a brilliant strategist who has spanned many different aspects of the craft through the years. He’s dynamic, knowledgeable and brings a wealth of wisdom and ideas to the agency. Plus, he’s one of the humblest people in advertising. He will help us supercharge our drive for creative excellence across the business.”

In the role, Tarek – who is passionate about making his industry more diverse – will be responsible for leading Grey London both in its strategy and its creativity, working across all of its client accounts. Notably, last year, he was highlighted as one of Campaign UK’s 40 over 40 winners. Tarek also featured on the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) 100 for 2022 list, as one of the top strategists and consultants in the industry at large.

Of the appointment, he said: “After meeting Laura and the rest of the team at Grey, it became immediately obvious that something truly special was brewing there… I’m looking forward to making a little creative mischief with the agency, and our clients, going forward.”

Read more here: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/grey-london-hires-tarek-sioufi-as-chief-strategy-officer

Fast Fact 1: Pertinent Reads

This selection of strategy-focused reads for your nightstand are guaranteed to put you ahead in your work as a chief strategy officer:

Vargas, R. and Conforto, E. (2019). The Chief Strategy Officer Playbook (UK: Thinkers 50) – showcasing some of the very best thinkers and business leaders in the field of strategy implementation and beyond.

  • Krause, DG. (2015). The Art Of War For Executives (US: Berkley Pub Group) – ancient principles of war are reinterpreted in this tome, to offer readers the skills they need to gain and advantage and achieve success on the competitive corporate battlefield.
  • Rumelt, R. (2011). Good Strategy/Bad Strategy – The Difference And Why It Matters (UK: Profile Books Ltd) – this author believes that the heart of good strategy is insight into the hidden power in any given situation, and into the best and most appropriate response, whether launching a new product, fighting a war or putting a man on the moon.
  • Bet-David, P. (2021). Your Next Five Moves. Master The Art Of Business Strategy. (UA: Simon & Schuster) – whether you feel like you’ve hit a wall, lost your fire, or are looking for innovative strategies to take your business contribution to the next level, Your Next Five Moves has the answers that you require.
  • Reeves, M., Haanaes, K. and Sinha, J. (2015) Your Strategy Needs A Strategy. How To Choose And Execute The Right Approach. (US: Harvard Business Review) – according to this framework, there are five approaches: be big, fast, first, the conductor, or simply be viable. You just have to choose. 

Fast Fact 2: Online Courses for the Win

A second, but in no way secondary, option to help keep you thriving in this demanding position – as you execute strategy, network, and lead change in your organisation – is to do a refresher course.

The experts at Digitaldefynd recommend that you make your selection from the list of internationally offered courses below:

  • Executive Programme in Corporate Strategy, via Chicago Booth Executive Education;
  • Strategy Programmes, via Harvard Business School;
  • Corporate Business Strategy Executive Progammes, via Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management;
  • Strategy and Innovation, via the University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School;
  • Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation, via the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management;
  • Executive Progamme in Strategy and Organisation, via the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and
  • Chief Strategy Officer Programmes, via the National University of Singapore.
  • For more information or to sign up, click here: https://digitaldefynd.com/best-chief-strategy-officer-programs/
  • In South Africa, a highly recommended course for any CSO, or wanna-be CSO, is the Strategic Business Management online short course, offered by the University of Cape Town (UCT). Taking place over 10 weeks, those signing on will walk away with: the tools to develop a business strategy plan, together with an implementation plan; a comprehensive understanding of your market, and its micro- and macro-economic factors; the ability to conduct high-level business analyses; and an understanding of your unique competitive advantage and the validation of your management skills.
  • For details, click here: https://uct-online.getsmarter.com/presentations/lp/strategic-business-management-short-course/

Hot Jobs at
Executive Placements


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *