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Interim Management: Increasingly Delivering Strategic Change

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With a requirement for greater delivery in ever shorter timescales, under increased shareholder pressure and the continual impact of new technology, the life of the Chief Executive isn’t an easy one.

Many CEOs face the same dilemma all too frequently: on the one hand is the need to continuously drive programme after programme of change; and on the other to ensure that business-as-usual thrives. The big question often is: where can a business find the extra resources that it needs, exactly when it’s needed?

The people most likely to make decisions about appointing leaders of strategic projects are senior executives; typically the chief executive or managing director, chairman or finance director of a business. Understandably the first place that they typically look for such resources is within the business itself. When the right calibre of resource isn’t available, they are likely to consider using a management consultancy or someone from their own personal network, or an interim manager through an interim management agency.

Changing Attitudes Towards Interim Managers

Attitudes towards executive interim managers are changing for the better. Industry leaders will often happily utilise interim managers for tactical assignments like; holding-the-fort to cover a shortfall or the sudden departure of a senior manager/executive, through illness, maternity leave or resignation. Naturally though, some industry leaders who perhaps haven’t used interim managers are likely to be more reticent about using them for more strategic projects. Interestingly though, research shows that those who have used interim managers for strategic projects are more likely to use them again in the future.

So increasingly, interim managers are being required to run strategic assignments associated with mergers, acquisitions, development programmes, plant relocations, cost reduction and outsourcing programmes in roles such as general managers, financial directors, purchasing and logistics directors. In these strategic roles, interim managers are increasingly appreciated for their value over traditional Big Four consultants with regards to implementing change; not only because of the lower cost of a highly experienced interim manager compared to a branded but often less experienced consultant, but more and more because the quality of the delivery is often better too.

Interim Management Agencies May Not Be Cheap But

Interim management agencies may not be cheap, and whilst it’s an enticing idea to try to cut out the middleman and to try to use an ex colleague, agencies for interim managers do have their value. They know the pool of interim managers and can source not just someone who is available, but the best person in that particular specialist field. Nevertheless, if the assignment you need to fill is a fairly low risk role, someone from your own network may be an ideal solution. However, if you’ve got a high-profile / high-risk strategic role, for a programme that must be delivered, then is it really worth taking a risk? Why not get the best individual available? Although it may cost more, good interim management agencies pride themselves on finding exactly the right interim manager for their clients.

In answer to the question: where should businesses look to find the extra resource that they need to cope with strategic changes and business-as-usual?

The answer is: it depends.

Low risk tactical roles can often be filled through personal contacts, but increasingly users of expert interim management services are finding that they can rely on expert interim managers to deliver high value strategic programmes when previously they would have paid more and used management consultants. However, for high-value high-profile roles, it’s often not worth taking risks. Talk to a specialist interim management agency. Whilst it may be more expensive, from time to time (especially for strategic programmes) its worth paying to find the best person on the market.

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J Hadley writes on behalf of Executive Interims – Supply Chain Practice. See: http://www.executive-interims.co.uk

Interim Management: Increasingly Delivering Strategic Change
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