Raj Tulsiani discusses five things you should know about interim management but perhaps never considered, to help add real value to the business.
The growth of interim management over the last three decades has been such that industry best practice has been fighting a losing battle to keep up with the movement of the market. Interim has grown so fast, across so many sectors and functions, that it is difficult to accurately define the situations in which interim adds the most value.
On face value, interim seems to be a fairly simple concept – a flexible executive resource to handle specific initiatives or cover absence.
However, many sophisticated HR departments are helping their organisations to get even more value out of their interim workforce because they understand five key dimensions through which professional interim managers add value:
1. Objectivity in sensitive situations
Organisations often seem to forget that interim managers are not biased by existing relationships, ideas or preconceptions. Often we are asked to supply senior interims to extremely sensitive situations. Whether change is driven by growth or contraction, it is likely to result in issues and challenges that stretch the resources and resolve of the incumbent leadership team. Change is also likely to bring about conflicts between stakeholders with conflicting personal agendas, and the resulting fallout can present an unnecessary distraction at a time when the organisation really needs precision and collaboration. Interims are mandated to tackle problems objectively and thereby help the various senior stakeholders achieve the results they need for the business. For example, in situations of major restructuring, an interim will be able to dispassionately make tough decisions for the good of the company.
Most people don't realise that professional interims are generally more senior than the positions they accept on an interim assignment. For example, a former HRD may choose to offer their services at senior business partner or advisor level on an interim basis, yet they are far more experienced than that, and therein lies their value. They've faced the challenges they commit to solving before, and they know the potential roadblocks and pitfalls they will face along the way.
Some organisations aren't fully aware that interim management can be a direct, like-for-like alternative to external consultancies. And because interims implement rather than just advise and sit within the organisation rather than externally, they are highly accountable. For example, if your organisation is undergoing a geographic relocation or a major change initiative, an interim (or interims) could actually join your organisation and scope and drive the projects through, rather than telling how they should be done and letting you get on with it. In addition, interims are 'only as good as their last assignment', so they have every motivation to consistently deliver results.
4. Immediacy and flexibility
Business challenges – and opportunities – very often won't wait. A few days can be make or break. Many organisations don't realise that they can have an interim shortlist in front of them within 48 hours, and an interim in place within a week or less. That flexibility compares very favourably to a permanent hire where you often also need to wait for people to work out long notice periods before they join. Interims also present the chance to strengthen your workforce in the short term, without committing to long notice periods or potential difficulties should there be a need to downsize at some point in the future.
5. Managing crisis situations
When a challenging situation arises, people are often expected to drop everything and rush to the pumps. But that often isn't practical. In times of crises, why not parachute in an expert who's dealt with similar situations before and will therefore be able to provide expert guidance, allowing you to get on with your normal workload? Many management teams throw themselves completely into crisis control, neglecting other critical initiatives in the meantime. What they don't realise is that there may be an opportunity to have the problem taken out of their hands. Of course they'll still need to be involved, but the comfort and clarity of having an expert assuming responsibility can certainly lessen the burden.
Organisations have become increasingly sophisticated, using interims across a broad range of functions, often at the very highest levels of seniority. While there will always be a need for interim managers to cover for unexpected absence, organisations that understand the five key dimensions as a framework are well positioned to utilise interims in a more strategic way – and thereby reap the benefits.
Raj Tulsiani is founder of Green Park Interim & Executive Resourcing. For more information, visit www.green-park.co.uk