From 2007, I am acting as an interim manager, with now 6 missions. And let me answer the question directly: interim managers are not superheroes. Still, they may be the solution in some cases.
From fireman to transformer
Depending on the nature of the mission, the interim manager will act as different type of characters. Let me tell you my own stories:
- A fireman: in that case, the interim manager has to solve a crisis. This was my first assignment. The crisis was preventing my client to sell its product in emerging markets. How did I extinguish the fire? By applying a strict Root Cause Analysis method and by bringing a fresh perspective. In another situation, my goal was clearly to organize a complete turnaround which started by liquidating the past (aka write-offs) and then redefine a new future.
- A substitute: the interim manager has to replace on the spot someone that is missing in the organization. The first time I was in that situation, the replacement was first due to an so-called incompatibility between a manager and its hierarchy. This was not easy as the replacement had to be quick. My availability and my ability to replace him immediately was key for this mission.
- A transformer: the manager is asked to transform the organization from state A to state B. Wearing that hat, I was asked to merge two department into one and simplify a set of too heavy processes.
- A lead of men: the goal is here to achieve some goals by leadership and program management. This is the most frequent type of queries that I have and it consists of accomplishing some precise results.
What are the tricks?
If interim managers are not superheroes, what are they tricks:
- Speed: an interim manager is quickly available (in days or weeks, not months) and is up-to-speed immediately. This is making a bid difference compared to a classical hiring process that can last quite long.
- Chameleon: in the interim manager magician hat, there is no rabbit but he is himeself a true chameleon: he knows how to adapt quickly to a new organization’s culture
- Track record: past successful and rich varied experience brings confidence to the manager but also to the teams
- Best practices: in his suitcase, the interim manager comes with lots of best practices that he just need to transpose to a specific context
- A fresh look: by hiring an interim manager, you have someone new that can reconsider things that are working and must be kept vs. things that must be changed
- Less politics: as the interim manager has not long-term future in his client’s organization, he is more free in his movements and less tied by some politics linked to internal promotion
- Delivery, delivery, delivery: like a bulldozer, the interim manager is obsessed by delivering the desired outcome. This is probably the most important factor.
- Reputation: on each assignment, the interim manager is playing the main assets he has: his reputation.
- Sustainability: He wants to leave his mark, even when the mission will be finished, on the contrary on some consultants who want to retain their Intellectual Property. Therefore, the state you achieved at the end of an interim management intervention is sustainable.
- Nothing else to sell: you are not dealing with a consultancy firm that wants to sell anyone from junior consultants to the partner. You will pay for the service of interim manager. Full stop.
- Network: still, the interim manager can use his network to help solving parts of the equation
So, to me, interim managers are not superheroes. They are problem-solvers. They solve issues that you cannot solve with you existing managing staff.