Nov 6, 2019

Expertise And Partnership: A Winning Combination

Chief Executive Magazine features Omar Ishrak and Carol Surface on driving business strategy together.

people walking up stairs and talking

November 6, 2019 - The November issue of Chief Executive Magazine includes an article by Omar Ishrak, Medtronic chairman and CEO, and Carol Surface, the company’s chief human resources officer. The two – who have worked together at Medtronic for the past six years in their respective roles – discuss their approach to driving a strong business strategy for the world’s largest medical device company.

Drawing on recent work by Gartner and the CHRO Global Leadership Board (CGLB), a model was developed to represent the critical role the CHRO should play in an organization. The following are excerpts from the article*, highlighting Ishrak’s and Surface’s perspectives on how they’ve implemented the model at Medtronic through a combination of applied expertise and strong partnerships. 


Serving as the HR functional business leader is the foundation of the CHRO’s role. CHROs also are expected to either come into an organization with, or quickly acquire, business acumen specific to the company they are serving, as well as to work with executive peers to shape and influence business strategy. These three areas of expertise are considered non-negotiable: they are essential for success in this — and any — C-Suite position. The five pillars that sit atop the model’s foundation outline the key responsibilities that define a world-class CHRO.

We believe the CHRO’s role as the board’s leader of human capital is one of the role’s most interesting and important evolutions. The human capital pillar charges the CHRO with identifying external trends that impact the business and bringing them to the attention of the CEO and the board. In today’s environment of rapid-fire information sharing, this role is key.

Generally speaking, the more you expect, the more you get. The tenets of the Model for a World-Class CHRO help strengthen the CEO/CHRO relationship and add value to the organization. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is an exercise in shifting key responsibilities for the function, educating the board and sometimes peer executives, and in overall change management. In other words, it is a multi-year process. But in our experience, it is well worth the effort.

In FY21, Geoff Martha, Executive Vice President and President for the Restorative Therapies Group, will assume the role of CEO at Medtronic, with Ishrak remaining Chairman of the Board and becoming Executive Chairman. Surface and Martha have worked together as members of Ishrak’s executive team for the past six years. 

*Excerpts published with permission from Chief Executive Magazine.