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  • Writer's pictureDirk Baerts

Interim Management in Times of Recovery

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

It has been said plenty of times, 2020 has been a very unusual year, unprecedented & unpredictable. The COVID-19 pandemic has run havoc in the global economy, ruined business models & created a lot of confusion, uncertainty & frustration. Existing operating models went out of the window, historic data has become far less relevant to build future plans and predict potential outcomes, and organizational structures, processes and procedures are being challenged in the new economic reality.

For many companies, in all segments of the industry, 2021 will be the year of recovery, of “the Reset”: resetting the organization, its culture and maybe even its values, resetting expectations & goals, resetting the budgets and finances, resetting the company’s operations, or maybe resetting its approach towards the markets it services and towards how it reaches its customer base. In some cases, the corporation will be fine modifying only a few aspects of its business model, but in many organizations it will require a complete revamping of the way the business operates to be successful on its path to recovery.

While this all sounds easy, there are several significant challenges that typically come up when a company is going through such a fundamental change process:

  • This is the time for the company to innovate, to do things differently, in a way they have never been done before. The goal being to differentiate itself in the market, to improve efficiencies or gain productivity, to enter a new market. Therefore, it is extremely important for the leadership team to be able to determine how to innovate and which path to follow that delivers the biggest gains for the organization. This means that there needs to be a large dose of self-reflection, creativity and curiosity instilled with management to realize this successfully. With the challenge being that this capacity or the willingness might not be sufficiently present in the organization

  • Once the path and related strategy have been determined, the company needs to analyse if it has the right level of experience, expertise and skillset & talent available internally to execute upon the strategy set, if not the strategy will be doomed to fail from the get-go

  • The financial aspect can also not be neglected and can also become a limiting factor. What is required from an investment or cash perspective to be successful on this new route, and what will be the impact on short- and long-term cash-flows? What are the risks and liabilities attached to the changes, and how do these stand against the expected payoffs?

  • Last but not least, once the decision has been taken and the change process has started, leadership will need to ensure it has the ability & resources to successfully guide the organization through the change process & remove any resistance against the organizational and possibly culture change

When any of these challenges arise, interim executives are very well placed to provide a reliable, fast, and budget-friendly solution to assist the leadership team in taking the company effectively through the recovery phase.

  • They bring a fresh outside perspective and provide insights and solutions with a different view. This is especially important in organizations that have been operating the same way for a long time and in which it might be harder to find the level of creativity and innovative drive that is required to deliver an innovative solution. Interim managers bring experience and expertise from different companies and industries, which can be very useful to the organization and the leadership team, to create that new perspective and challenge the status-quo, leading to finding and exploring “new” ideas . And although they might be new to company, they might have well proven their success in other environments

  • Interim managers also bring years of experience in leading organizations and managing teams, together with a lot of people management expertise. Especially when skillset and talent gap analyses are to be done and hiring or retention decisions have to be made, having an experienced, neutral observer and mediator will prove very valuable. This will be especially the case in times of recovery, such as in the post-Covid-19 era, where personal opinions and relationships might drive staffing decisions that are not aligned with the organizations’ skillset requirements. Given their experience and their more neutral position, interim executives will be able to address such situations more effectively and with less friction

  • Knowledge transfer is also an important part of the contribution interim executives can make in the recovery phase. Because they are in their role for a pre-established time frame, they are very well place to coach, mentor and guide the person who will ultimately take over the role. Interim managers aren’t in the role permanently, which means they are not competing for a position and from the start they can start preparing their succession and ensure a successful transition when they are leaving. Coaching & mentoring is an integral part in the role interim executives play

  • As an “embedded expert” in the organization during a recovery period, an interim leader will have the credibility to make the necessary organizational adjustments, and even positively impact the company culture. As experienced leaders they understand that communication and visibility are key components of any change process and will be able to deliver impactful messages to the organization. Typically, they are very experienced in developing strategies and setting overarching goals and targets, and in messaging these in such a way that it engages and energizes the organization. Clearly “explaining the why” will be crucial to initiate and drive a successful organizational transformation. In later stages, they can assist the leadership team with the follow-up communication, relaying successes and re-enforcing the initial messaging, to keep the momentum going. They are also more considered as a “trusted partner” by the employees, allowing them to learn about and capture the employees’ sentiments towards management and the entire organization more easily in individual and group conversations

  • One additional advantage interim managers bring, is the fact that, as mentioned above, the assignment is set for a well-defined time frame. This means that the budgetary impact is known from the start, and that there will be also no long-term liability. Sometimes there are result bonuses provisioned, but the cost to the company is well defined. This will limit the cash expenditure in time for the organization, yet gives it the benefit of the expertise and experience of the highly-skilled executive, while planning its longer-term solution & structure. It significantly reduces the risk of a wrong hire, as it allows the organization to take advantage of the know-how the interim manager brings in the short-term, while creating the space and time to diligently search and/or train & mentor the right candidate for the long-term.

With years of experience in holding leadership positions in local, multi-national and start-up companies in the technology and service industries, we are well placed to offers interim executive services to Canadian for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Specialized in turn-around and growth management, building on the I2ACT philosophy, we deliver interim management solutions aimed at resolving customers’ overall business leadership needs (stepping in as interim CEO, interim President or interim Executive Director), as well as filling more specialized sales, marketing or operational leadership roles (interim COO, interim CCO, interim Vice President Sales & Marketing). If you like to learn more about our interim management services can benefit your company, give us a call, or send us an email.

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