How do interim managers help a company get back on track?
What does an interim manager do exactly? First of all, we should tell you that the title doesn’t describe the function accurately. It’s an attractive job, that people often opt for on the long term. It’s a pity that it attracts so many negative stereotypes.
A better term would probably be ‘external manager’. Because that’s what it is: an external partner that helps the business on a temporary basis. Organisations often take on an interim manager in the context of a replacement-, transformation-, or crisis trajectory.
Why should I hire an interim manager?
You can hire an interim manager to replace a manager or the head of a department, when you don’t want to appoint the task to an internal employee yet. Because the search for the right manager can take some time, an interim manager can take over the tasks for a few months.
Some companies also choose to hire interim managers to assist them in a transformation trajectory. Those companies are for example planning a reorganisation, a merger, a strategic repositioning or a product launch. Such trajectories often mean a higher workload, which the internal staff can’t always take on. At the same time, these extra tasks can require an expertise that the staff may not have. The interim manager takes on the extra workload.
Besides, companies often don’t even want to permanently hire the right expertise needed for a transformation, since this expertise might not collide with their core business. That’s why they prefer to hire someone from an external company. This is where we come in: we can match these companies with senior managers that have several years of experience in transformation trajectories. The interim managers we provide have at least 15 to 20 years of experience.
Crisis management is needed when the matter is so sensitive that an external manager has to come in to let things settle down. Companies opt for an interim manager in order to keep the business on the right track, and to give the internal managers time to come up with a definitive solution.
A helping hand
Vanessa, Partner Interim Management, likes to call interim managers “a company’s benefactors”.
“Our clients are going through a transformation, whether it’s a positive or a negative one. It’s easy to lose control. Our interim managers make sure that doesn’t happen, and help companies get back on track when it has already happened.”
In the end, when the interim manager moves on to the next project (their assignment is always temporary), their colleagues often ask them if it isn’t tiresome to have to start over every time and learn the ways of a new company. Inke, who already has 2 years of experience as interim manager at AUSY, doesn’t think so: “That’s what makes it so interesting!”
After an international career in IT, strategy and transformation, Inke started as a full time interim manager in 2013. “You learn quite a lot by working in so many different environments. You can apply these new insights in your next project, or at your next company. More than once, I have been able to use my experience from a previous job in a totally different sector. It’s a real advantage to have knowledge from different domains. And, no matter the sector, I have always had motivated colleagues that want to cooperate to make the best of an often difficult situation.”
However, we also see some interim managers that choose to specialize in a certain sector, domain, type of company, tool, process … Vanessa: “This mostly happens in the IT sector and in process management.”
It’s very interesting to discover new sectors and new businesses.
Advantages of employing an interim manager
The most obvious advantage: the interim manager isn’t as personally involved in the company as for example a full time manager. This makes him or her an independent partner; whose expertise isn’t tied to certain (hidden) company interests.
Vanessa: “Interim managers occupy a unique position, in that they have something of a bird’s eye view over the company, and they maintain a certain level of autonomy. This allows them to get an overview of the internal politics in a company, but also to distance themselves from it. They are able to separate the essence of a case and to make those decisions that are necessary to achieve a goal. Finally, they are able to act quickly, make decisions and push forward.”
Another advantage is that interim managers mostly get a warm welcome. Inke: “When I start in a certain company, people know my agenda. They know that I was called in to reach a certain objective or to oversee a certain project. I don’t have any hidden interests. This creates trust. The employees are often more open towards me than towards their colleagues. They can confide in me. Obviously, this is beneficial to the project.”
How to guide a project towards success
The project’s success, or the speed with which the goal is reached, depends on many different factors besides the interim manager’s expertise. Vanessa: “We always work on a short term basis, but we try to make an impact on the long term. We always ask our clients to elaborately discuss every possible outcome of the project with us. It’s the only way to ensure a long term positive result that doesn’t end once the interim manager leaves.”
“Sometimes, the interim manager will take the time to advise the sponsor on the impact on the long term. Together, they can anticipate some of the results and take proactive measures to prevent unwanted effects.”
Inke: “I often get assigned a sponsor when I start to work in a company. This is my point of contact. To make sure my project succeeds, it is important that my colleagues accept my status as temporary manager. So I always ask my sponsor to pay attention to the internal communication. It helps when they explain my task clearly and openly to their colleagues - and support me in my role.”
The success of a project depends on clear communication. The interim manager doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the company. Transferring knowledge and managing expectations is important from the very beginning.
Interim management is the future
Interim managers to guarantee agility
In conclusion: an interim manager is often the best partner for quick, result oriented replacement, transformation and crisis management. Hiring an interim manager isn’t cheap. You shouldn’t get hung up on this initial cost, though.
Inke: “The return of investment (ROI) is often very high: you get better and faster results by investing in an interim manager than when you would try and divide a project over the existing managers, who might already be overworked and are going through a period of change and insecurity.”
Vanessa: “Interim management is the future. We’re evolving towards an economy in which flexibility will become more and more important. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) isn’t just a buzzword anymore. Companies are changing ever faster and becoming more agile. To make sure these companies succeed, you need managers that are just as flexible. AUSY loves to assist companies in these challenges. Employees that start in a company and stay there for 30 years or more are becoming an endangered species.”
I'm interested in the concept of interim management
Can you keep your cool in a crisis? Do you like responsibility, challenge and variation? Or do you need someone to help you get your company back on track? We'd love to give you some more information!