WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE INTERIM MANAGERS AND WHAT MAKES INTERIM MANAGERS UNIQUE



This is an extract of a very interesting book of the Financial Times London: “The Interim Manager: A New Career Model for the Experienced Manager”.

It’s already a few years old (published already in 1998), but due to the British lead in dealing with Interim Management, it is now quite topical in our Region (D-A-CH).

There has to be a better way. Interim management is that better way”

There has to be a better way. Interim management is that better way. It offers the key to Charles Handy’s* Empty Raincoat concept Call it insourcing if you like – a just-in-time method of accessing management resources.

Unlike consultants, interim managers hold line management responsibility. They represent an additional in-house resource. They become part of the company for as long as their assignment lasts. They provide an effective way for organizations to augment the existing skills of their “core” staff – a just-in-time source of intellectual capital and additional capacity. We call this insourcing.

Interim management provides control without burdening the management structure or adding to fixed staffing costs. Unlike the consultant or freelancer, he or she reports directly to the senior management team (unlike outsourcing, they also ensure that capability remains in-house).

For these and other reasons, a growing number of companies are now turning to interim managers to provide the additional resources they need. The experience of recent years makes this all the more timely.


WHAT IS INTERIM MANAGEMENT?

It is an odd feature of modern corporate life that companies seem to be shedding experienced managers one minute and complaining of a shortage of them the next. But the truth is that there is always a shortage of a particular type of hands-on manager: the sort of person who can walk into a situation, rapidly identify what needs to be done, put together a plan, and implement it within a given timescale and budget.

‘The interim manager is a newish breed of corporate person who steps in at short notice, sorting out problems, setting up operations or filling whatever gap has suddenly appeared in the management structure”, Margaret Coles wrote in the Sunday Times.

In simple terms, interim management is an effective solution to corporate crises and other managerial resourcing issues. It entails hiring a highly qualified, highly experienced, freelance executive and dropping him into a business dilemma, with a specific brief and a limited length of time to implement it.

Irene Shoemakers, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the subject provides a useful definition: “Interim management is the temporary placement of highly qualified managers with the specific task of ensuring continuity within an organization. It can also be put in place to augment the skills of an existing management team.”

An alternative definition comes from the UK’S Association of Temporary & Interim Executive Services. According to ATIES:  “An interim manager is someone who is appointed to a temporary position within the management structure of an enterprise either as a functional manager or director, or to undertake a specific short-term project.”

In her book “Strike a New Career Deal” Carole Pemberton explains the rise of interim management as follows: ‘An organization seeks help because there are major projects where it does not have sufficient in-house expertise, but where once the change has been introduced, the job can be managed internally. They (the top management team) know that they are getting an individual who has not only done the job before but will probably have done it for a far larger enterprise.”

Scenarios, where an interim manager might be considered, could include any of the following:

  • implementation of systems, particularly new or updated high-tech installations
  • helping companies to take advantage of expansion or new opportunities
  • an underperforming company, one in dire need of re-organization, preparing a subsidiary for sale,
  • the sudden or unexpected departure or illness of a senior executive.

WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT INTERIM MANAGERS ?

It is an odd feature of modern corporate life that companies seem to be shedding experienced managers one minute and complaining of a shortage of them the next. But the truth is that there is always a shortage of a particular type of hands-on manager: the sort of person who can walk into a situation, rapidly identify what needs to be done, put together a plan, and implement it within a given timescale and budget.

These managers have the capacity to overcome unseen obstacles, lift the morale of staff, and sort out internal processes and other day-to-day issues along the way. Where they have a track record of successful business turnarounds or start-ups, they are called troubleshooters or change agents, and are even more valued.


Capability chart
.
Freelance Offers Skill
External Consultant Offers Knowledge
Interim Manager Offers Experience and Track-Record
 (Book page 173)

Most chief executives would agree that there are not enough of these managers in any organization. So, if this caliber of manager was available to work on a short-term contract, to step in with just a few days’ notice, then as a chief executive you might well think it was a Godsend. If this individual was also prepared to walk away without any fuss (or a large severance pay off) when the job was completed – and was even prepared to help recruit his own successor – you might think it was too good to be true.

“A just-in-time source of intellectual capital and additional specialist capacity”

But where would you find such a person? To be effective, he would have to be an experienced line manager. To play a strategic role, he would also need to have held senior management posts – probably, at or just below, board level. He might need specialist knowledge of a key function such as finance or IT; or experience of mergers and acquisition. He would require many of the skills of a management consultant and company doctor combined.
You may think such people don’t exist, but they do. They are called Interim Managers.


WHAT DO INTERIM MANAGERS DO?

ATIES (the Association of Temporary & Interim Executive Services)2 says the range of assignments that interims are used for is increasingly wide, but most fall into one of three categories:

  1. Gap management
  2. Project management
  3. Turnarounds / recovery situations.
  4. To these, we would add another important area: Developing people.

An interim has to call the shots and take responsibility, turn your business upside down. With the right interim manager, you are buying experience. They get the ship afloat fast.
“In his time with us”, adds David Sims, former CEO of Nurdin & Peacock, “the Interim executive carried out a disposal, took out costs and re-organized the management structure. He certainly didn’t just keep the seat warm; he saved us lots of money.’”

An interim has to call the shots and take responsibility. He or she has to be big enough to tell the company if something will not fly and, if it will not listen, must be prepared to walk away. You cannot afford failure as you are only as good as your last job.

One other point is worth making here. Unlike the consultant, interim managers stand or fall by their track records. Reputation is everything. “An interim has to call the shots and take responsibility. He or she has to be big enough to tell the company if something will not fly and, if it will not listen, must be prepared to walk away. You cannot afford failure as you are only as good as your last job.”


WHAT MAKES A GOOD INTERIM MANAGER?

However, the role also requires a special set of skills and attributes. More than any other role, the interim must be able to walk into a new company and make things happen.

He must be able to:

  • inspire confidence and radiate credibility
  • assimilate culture and context very quickly
  • analyze what needs to be done and create an achievable plan • /fire up/ an often demoralized workforce
  • get things moving quickly
  • side-step internal politics
  • deliver on time and in budget
  • make a clean exit.

He also needs these skills:

  • wide management experience in relevant industries, from a generalist, not purely technical standpoint
  • a sound management track record which inspires confidence with permanent employees on site
  • strong analytical and communication skills
  • the ability to size-up complex problems rapidly and to identify a course of action
  • the ability to combine long-term strategic thinking with a keen sense of the importance of measurable results and of getting things done in the short term.
  • being a focused, task-oriented achiever
  • giving consistent leadership, combined with flexibility in reacting to events and circumstances when required
  • the capacity to transfer knowledge to the permanent workforce at every level
  • interpersonal and motivating skills
  • awareness of political issues, in the corporate sense, coupled with the ability to take a detached view of them
  • physical and mental toughness
  • efficient personal financial stability to be able to take tougher sea without fear of the assignment being terminated

GREY HAIR

Interim Managers are the sort of people who like fixing things.
One thing that Interims do have in common is maturity. The role demands a level of experience not usually found in managers under the age of 40. Many Interims are much older, in their 60s. As one Interim notes: “One of the great things about the role is that a few grey hairs are actually an asset.”
The role is very demanding, however, requiring a good level of physical fitness. Interims must be just about the only professionals who actually boast about their years.

Interims must be just about the only professionals who actually boast about their years


*) As early as 1995, Charles Handy said that many people could start a second life after leaving work. They would have to prepare themselves for this and, above all, give up their jobs in good time. The British social philosopher Handy, who was born in Ireland, studied at Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked for Shell International and taught at the London Business School. His book “The Empty Raincoat” was published by Gabler Verlag under the title “The Progress Trap”.


Source: „The Interim Manager: A New Career Model for the Experienced Manager“ von David Clutterbuck und Des Dearlove. Verlag: Financial Times Professional, London, 1998