25 September 2019

I have been in Danny’s shoes before – providing what I think is the solution to a client those lost millions…or their over running ERP programme, under-performing division, etc. – only to find that my solution does not match with the expectations of my client.

“You know a guy?”

Clients sometimes rule out an Interim Management solution because they believe all they are getting is a silver-haired warrior, complete with battle scars, who is going to go to war on their behalf. This view is most often held by those whose approach to change is to ring the Management Consultant Batphone. Now, obviously, the consulting solution is a sensible default starting point for enterprise change across multiple international locations, especially when there are multiple stakeholders with competing objectives. However, there a many business problems – even big, hairy ones – where an individual Interim Manager, or small team, can be more effective.

“You know a guy?” in this scenario reflects a lack of understanding about the nature of Interim Managers and how they go about their business. This is not the client’s fault – most C-suite leaders in the UK are yet to experience quality Interim Management solutions – and so they seek the reassurance of the consulting methodology, the heavyweight report, the team landing and expanding across the organisation. What’s one guy against that?

This seriously underplays how structured leading Interim Managers are. I noticed some years ago how many of the best people I know have a background in top tier consultancies, major tech businesses or best in class engineering companies. I don’t believe this is a coincidence, and could also be self-fulfilling. Working for an excellent, process-first business early in your career never leaves you, and it might even be their innate aptitude in this area which led them to be hired in the first place.

Interim Managers aren’t battle scarred story-tellers, but they are battle hardened, and they come with a ‘playbook’.

A playbook isn’t a methodology, or even a set of methodologies; it is so much more than that. An Interim Manager’s playbook is a huge back catalogue of experiences, methodologies, lessons learned and business contacts which can be used to create a solution to the client’s problem. Just as a sports coach is unlikely to go into a game without assessing their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, an Interim Manager will seek to understand the exact problem the client is looking to solve. Then they can use the playbook to create a solution based on what they have done before.

‘Based on’ is important. A playbook is not rigid and inflexible – change done to you. An Interim Manager with a playbook makes the best of the circumstances and creates the best possible outcome.

So playbooks can ace methodologies, but can an individual Interim Manager beat a whole team of management consultants?

On their own, no, they obviously can’t. To move the big rust-encrusted dials culturally welded to maintain the old way of doing things, no, they obviously can’t. However, all they need is a little help.

Clients are frequently surprised how fussy an Interim Manager can be – not about which office they get to sit in - but about knowing everything they can about the client, the project, the problem and the desired outcome. This is sensible due diligence, and it’s not just about budgets, stakeholders, realistic timescales and aligned expectations. It’s also about how important this really is to the client. The perceived importance of the problem will have a direct impact on the human resources the client is willing to allocate to the Interim Manager, and hence to the driving of a successful outcome. Are they going to get the company’s top 10%, earmarked for fast track development, or ‘Reg’, whose CV has been on every job board since 1997, but who is still hanging around and ‘under-utilised’.

In truth, a competent Interim Manager can work with both, and often has to, but the high performing team will obviously create the better, faster outcome. Aside from the time and money saved, the other key benefit will be that the best people in the organisation have looked at the problem, helped create the solution, feel proud that they have been involved in the heavy lifting, can celebrate the win and, most importantly, have a deep functional understanding of the new, changed business.

The best feedback an Interim Manager can get? The team saying, ‘Yes, they were a good guy, but we did it ourselves.’ ‘My work here is done,’ thinks the Interim Manager.

So Terry Benedict, yes, I do know a guy – or two - but they aren’t ‘just a guy’. Interim Managers are transformative leaders with strong track records of success in corporate life. They are structured, bring playbooks and can tailor their approach to the outcome the client is looking for. Perhaps, most importantly, they work with the client’s own people to create a sense of shared endeavour, optimal outcome and enduring legacy.

Steve Rutherford

To understand more about the value Interim Management might bring to your organisation, please contact Steve at steve@rdw.uk.com

Steve Rutherford
Head of Interim Management Practice at Rees Draper Wright