A couple of months ago I wrote an article in which I predicted that 2020 might be the year of the Interim Manager...
I suggested that, in an uncertain UK economy grappling with the impact of Brexit, experienced, senior resource would be required to help businesses survive and thrive. So much has happened in the last couple of months. Do I still think this is the case? Well, I’m not about to make lofty claims about being able to know the future, but I certainly think that many businesses can and will benefit from Interim Management expertise in the months to come. How successfully they will do this will depend on how well they select, onboard and manage what will be, in the vast majority of cases, home-based resource.
So, what are the critical success factors in hiring remote a working Interim Manager?
1. Believe it is desirable and possible
Interim Managers fulfil a number of critical needs in a non-COVID-19 world. Occasionally it will be to cover a senior role in a period of absence. Sometimes it will be to help a business grow and manage surging demand. Most often, however, it will be to help a business face into problems it doesn’t have the experience, knowledge or bandwidth to solve. True, they will not have dealt with this specific problem before, but many of the impacts of COVID-19 – loss of revenue, lack of visibility on sales, a stronger requirement to control costs, people and cultural change, etc – will be all too familiar.
For many businesses, and most of all those who were travelling nicely up until the crisis and unaccustomed to being in a fight, Interim Management might be very desirable now.
Is it possible?
It is, but only for those businesses and business leaders who have the mindset to rethink how they select, onboard and manage their Interim Management estate. Old methodologies and ideologies will need to be re-examined, modified and, in some circumstances, cast into the recycling.
However, the requirements to hire, onboard and manage well will, most certainly, be unchanged.
2. Do your due diligence
A major psychological blocker for some will be that they will not be able to meet the Interim Manager and it may be that the entire assignment is conducted remotely.
Yes, that’s absolutely right.
However, that’s not a reason to suggest that the assignment can’t go ahead or, indeed, that any decision to go ahead is inherently riskier than if the candidate had been assessed face to face.
It certainly doesn’t have to be.
My view is that clients typically overemphasise the importance of an interview as part of the selection process for an Interim Manager. I understand why they do, as they believe it is their way of validating a decision that will inevitably reflect on them. However, most business leaders don’t interview their Audit Partner, Investment Manager or Systems Integrator, preferring to make an assessment based on the provenance of the source of the individual. The same really should apply to Interim Management.
The provenance of an Interim Manager is really about two things, and these are the things I wish clients asked me more:-
- What qualifies you to make the call that this person or these people are right to fix my problem?
- What due diligence have you done to make sure that they can do what they say they can do? (i.e. have you taken references on them?)
The answers to these questions should give a lot more reassurance than an interview, certainly if the supplier you’re asking is credible and has done their homework, but that’s not to say that a VC interview cannot also be involved. Ironically, an interview conducted remotely is probably a better guide to someone’s capability to communicate now, where all business is happening virtually, than a conventional interview was before COVID-19 arrived. Not much goes in an interview room for 45 minutes which mirrors the reality of an Interim Management assignment.
3. Make onboarding easy, not difficult
A short note about onboarding.
Make onboarding easy, not difficult.
OK, so a little more detail might be expected…
Get the contracts turned around quickly, get the Interim Manager the kit they need, get them the systems access and permissions they need, get the VCs booked that they will need to do, don’t book the VCs they don’t need to do.
Most of all, be guided by them as to what onboarding they need. They’ll probably have done this a lot more times than you, and the reassurance they can bring in troubled times by demonstrating this is very helpful in creating the right impact on landing.
4. Define objectives, milestones & outcomes
The single most important thing in conducting a successful Interim Management assignment in the current scenario is identical to what it was 3 months ago. The only thing which has changed is that it has got even more important.
It starts with objectives. All assignments benefit from the agreement of specific and measurable outcomes at the outset. These then create the agenda to agree a series of milestones against which the Interim Manager will deliver, leading to the best possible outcomes at the end of the assignment.
Again, this is a process where the client might get real reassurance from the Interim Manager, who will doubtless have done these multiple times before. Being able to validate the decision to onboard the Interim Manager by receiving regular, constructive bulletins is clearly reassuring, allowing the client to focus their attention on all the other problems and opportunities their business is facing.
5. Create regular touchpoints
A final point.
I know that occasionally I give the impression that experienced Interim Managers are superhuman. In many respects, I stand by that, in that they can typically achieve outcomes that others can’t in circumstances which range from the sub-optimal to the downright horrendous.
However, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that their superhuman status means that they don’t have the same human concerns we all do facing into COVID-19, and it’s important to create regular touchpoints with Interim Managers, as well as with full time staff who are working from home. It will certainly be well received by them and many clients find the wise counsel they can offer in return is just what’s required when one’s back is against the wall.
Best of luck and stay well,
To discuss the themes raised in this article or to understand more about the value Interim Management might bring to your organisation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org