Some managers equate interim management with the temporary agency they use to fill the empty seat in the billing office until a permanent replacement can be found. This opinion fails to identify some real operational and strategic advantages of using interim managers in specific settings.
Knowing when interim management is a viable solution can have tangible benefits for any organization. A true Interim Manager offers unique management skills that help guide an organization through a change process that, ultimately, transforms the operating environment. This transformation, assuming you’ve found the right Interim Manager, can yield returns that benefit your organization well beyond the initial investment. It is important to keep in mind that like most hospital strategies, one size does not fit all. If your organization suddenly lost its leader and now needs someone for employees to report to, then the manager in the next town is probably a better fit. Those looking to implement serious change shall seek the talent of a true Interim Manager.
When are Interim Managers appropriate?
Performance Improvement– current management hasn’t been able to improve the financial performance and seems equally unable to develop new approaches to key issues. Many organizations look to “turnaround” firms that place transitional managers in key roles and make fundamental operational and staffing changes. The skills needed to perform this role are often far different than those needed to provide daily leadership to an otherwise healthy organization. These “interventional” managers thrive on the challenge but quickly become bored when things run smoothly. Interim management or outsourcing is the best option for bringing these skills to the organization without the downside of having to make yet another management change when performance improves.
Strategic Restructure– interim managers have no connection to organizational history so it is unlikely that they resist change and may, in fact, offer unique recommendations that just might work. An interim team can bring best-practices knowledge to help an organization reach its full potential and guide the manager so past mistakes aren’t duplicated.
Growth Management– an organization that is experiencing rapid growth may have simply exceeded the skills of the current management team. An Interim can provide mentoring support or temporary leadership until the situation stabilizes. That manager can also assist in identifying the skills necessary for long term success, help with the screening process, and provide neutral insight into the future leader’s selection.
Management Coaching– talented people are sometimes put in positions that exceed their current skill set. An organization doesn’t want to lose them but understands that further development is needed to achieve their full potential. An interim can provide that experience and behind-the-scenes support that is needed until the current leaders can meet the challenge.
By now, you’ve probably thought about whether you should engage, or further consider engaging, an Interim Manager. If so, it is critical that you understand how the role needs to be supported to achieve the best possible outcome. Below are a few keys that will ensure maximum benefit.
Culture– too often an Interim is tasked with bringing change to an organization in a set period of time, only to be told that organizational culture precludes the speed with which change must happen. The ability to make personnel changes, modify business processes, restructure reporting relationships, and eliminate those things that are a distraction from the goal must be assured. The human resources process alone has derailed many engagements.
Resistance– staff know that this individual is temporary and will be gone eventually, if they can only hold out. Remember, an organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets so if things don’t change the outcome won’t either. Staff need to get on the bus or get out of the way.
Leadership support– many senior leaders don’t bring the Interim into the “inner circle” because they aren’t a permanent member of the team. Treat them as if you just spent months recruiting them and are lucky to have attracted such a talented individual. They are your best chance for success so avoid the temptation to acknowledge them as “just an Interim” because for the time being, they are a true member of your organization.
Now you’re thinking about actually hiring one of these Interim Managers. Start by seeking those with experience in similar or more complex settings. Don’t just accept the assignment of one of the consulting staff who doesn’t currently have an engagement. Interim managers have a rare set of skills. Be sure you have access to them.